Bummed out by a scathing review in the showbiz daily
Variety, rising Hollywood heartthrob Vince Chase is looking at potential balm
for his bruised ego: a Rolls-Royce with a price tag of $325,000.
"Whatcha thinking?" he asks Eric, a friend and confidant since grade school
in Queens who serves as his manager.
"I'm thinking it costs more than the houses we grew up in," says Eric.
"A [profane adjective] Subaru costs more than the houses we grew up in,"
chimes in Turtle, another member of Vince's posse.
For me, this exchange, from the second episode of "Entourage," is key to
appreciating the new HBO comedy, which, like its four main characters, can be
charming one moment, insufferable the next. Gorgeous and slightly dense Vince
(Adrian Grenier) and the longtime pals who run his errands, keep him "real" and
share his mansion and excess women - older brother "Drama" (Kevin Dillon), an
actor still trying to break out of direct-to-video flicks, former pizza-parlor
manager Eric (Kevin Connelly) and tireless party-animal Turtle (Jerry Ferrara)
- can all be shallow, self-indulgent and sexist. But there's a pathos about
these 20-somethings, individually and as a group, that's affecting.
They're not doing anything most guys wouldn't do if we were their age and
in their bacchanalian circumstances. They're working-class guys, "regular"
guys, living large - and largely by improv. They're poseurs, little guys
acting big, and occasionally they even realize it.
Although the entourage is Vince's, the show belongs more to Eric. He's the
shrewdest, the most grounded and self-aware of the four. Eric is the one Vince
trusts with his career, even though Eric's managerial experience is only as
deep as a pan of lasagna. Drama lives under the illusion that his day is coming
soon. Turtle is thrilled just to be along for the ride. But Eric's the one who
really has to put up a cool, competent front.
There's a marvelous sequence in episode two in which Vince and Eric meet
with Vince's agent, Ari (Jeremy Piven), who's furious that Eric told his friend
and employer to reject a $4-million offer to do a movie (summary blurb: "'Die
Hard' at Disneyland") because the script stunk.
"He passed on your next film, Vince," Ari fumes. "Guy doesn't want to make
money. You a communist? Or are you a socialist? Or didn't they teach you the
difference at Pepperoni U?"
"And what are you, a Rhodes scholar?" Eric fires back.
"No, just a lowly Harvard grad with an MBA from Michigan," Ari replies
"Michigan, huh?" says Eric, determinedly unimpressed. "Good football team."
The dialogue in "Entourage" is quick, spiky and often profane. It almost
always feels naturally conversational and spontaneous. Credit the astutely cast
ensemble of actors, series creator Doug Ellin, whose credits include the
feature film "Kissing a Fool" and the sitcom "Life With Bonnie," and a writing
team that includes "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld" veteran Larry Charles.
They obviously know Hollywood, and their love for its plastic fantastic
lowlifes and phony sincerity is as unmistakable and real as their disdain for
it. "Entourage" is almost as merciless satirically as "Action," the great Jay
Mohr comedy that Fox bailed on prematurely in 1999. The "almost" is probably
why "Entourage" is easier to like.
How good "Entourage" is isn't fully evident until episode two, due July 25,
but there's nothing "wrong" with Sunday's debut. It's just that this is
serialized comedy, like HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," in which groundwork is
carefully laid for future payoffs.
HBO might have been wiser to show the first two half- hours together, but
regardless of the configuration, the (initially) eight-week series gets off to
a great start.
ENTOURAGE. A pretty-boy movie star and his most trusted buds from the old days
back East live a nouveau riche, Hollywood life in a smart, profane new comedy
series. Premieres Sunday night at 10 on HBO.