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Entourage – The Complete First Season (A TV on DVD Review)

Entourage - The Complete First Season

Entourage – The Complete First Season


The Complete First Season 2004 (HBO Video-2005)

Entourage moves like an entourage – messy, aimlessly, shark-like, looking for trouble and always finding it. The next great HBO series screeches up next to you and dares you to jump in the ride.

According to this savvy show, it seems that The New Hollywood is nothing new at all. Times may have changed, but sex and power drives have not. The clichés of making it in The Big Orange are put through the juicer here, and they come out freshly squeezed and deliciously reconstituted. Essentially, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, yet we get to process it through hipper, more observant eyes.

We cheer on four ordinary guys – the new Beverly Hillbillies – as they snake their way through LaLa Land. Living in a sprawling mansion that they convert into a frat house (and probably costs a million times as much as the homes they grew up in back in Queens), the four lads’ back story hangs over every episode. We sense their modest beginnings, and knowing it sharpens the conflict and enriches the tone.

Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) gets thrown into the Hollywood machine and becomes an overnight sensation – the pretty boy of the moment in American multiplexes. He generously invites his two friends from back East and his struggling-actor brother to share in the blast off as his star begins to rise.

Chase knows deep down that it’s not going to last, and he plans to savor every moment of his fifteen minutes of fame. He asks his best friend, Eric (Kevin Connolly), to act as his manager. Before this huge promotion, the only thing Eric ever managed was a local Sbarro restaurant.

Trying not to look like a deer in the headlights, Eric is thrown into the mega-aggressive world of filmdom’s big dealings. Of course, he is not the least bit prepared, especially for the centrifugal force that is Chase’s super agent, Ari Gold, played with relish by Jeremy Piven.

Ari has the humiliating, humbling task of consistently having to go through Eric to get an audience with the very star he represents. An envious Ari tells Eric, “The point is that [Chase] is an insecure fuck, like all beautiful-but-handed-everything-on-a-silver-platter people. He doesn’t trust anyone in the world but you. You’ve been born into royalty, baby. You know that you just gotta be thankful and wear the crown.”

A grudging respect forms between agent and manager as Eric learns how to play with the big boys and not back down, no matter how intimidating it can be swimming with the sharks.

What feels too sitcom-y on paper rises way above when translated to visual image, thanks to some very heartfelt performances and competent actors who are extremely careful not to let a good thing sink. They very likely may even be working from personal experience, since this is a show about show business. Either way, they nail it.

Stealing the show, as always, is Kevin Dillon as actor Johnny Drama. Drama is actually Vincent’s older brother, who was the first in the family to get a tiny taste of fame about ten years back (on an obscure series on The Sci-Fi Channel).

In a bold career move that may mirror Dillon’s own real-life circumstance, he plays – with lines around his eyes – an aging ne’er do well who has to settle for riding on the coattails of his younger sibling’s wild ascent. However, Vincent never rubs it in Drama’s face or consciously makes him feel shitty. Vincent is respectful and careful; he often tries to give Drama’s career a boost whenever he can.

Vincent Chase often comes off as an enigma – an almost zen-like creature (we learn that he never even got his driver’s license). Drama, on the other hand, carries the real flesh and blood, the true emotion and the obvious frustration, perhaps even the real talent in the family. That’s show biz.

Drama’s story is just that – drama – and tragically so. Although he is not as dumb as we immediately guess, he telegraphs his misfortune episode by episode. “When I played that cokehead stoolie on Miami Vice,” he remembers, “Don Johnson – Don Johnson – said, ‘nice job, kid.’ Or was it the black guy?”

Unlike Sex and the City, Entourage feels real and unscripted, and it lacks the pretentiousness that Sex kept slipping into. This is with good reason: their co-executive producer is Larry Charles of Seinfeld fame and who, along with co-producer Doug Ellin, provide a smooth, enthusiastic commentary track. Even Larry David stops by to have a Curb-Your-Enthusiasm-like trademarked awkward confrontation with Johnny Drama.

Debi Mazar, still trying to escape the too-easy Fran Drescher comparison, demands attention as a street-wise publicist (when she winces, it’s classic). Also winning are Val Kilmer and Gary Busey, playing assorted nuts.

For The Kids, there is an odd but captivating soundtrack mix of well-chosen classic rock and rap, and when it plays, it’s party time.

Vincent, who is only separated from his buddies by his face, continues to soak it up, even going as far as to insist on starring in an independent movie project that may negatively influence his budding career.

Still, it’s all the same to him. He sums it up as he says to his buddy, “Look where we are! Did you ever think we would have this? Enjoy it. Have fun!”

We certainly are.

Ronald Sklar

Copyright ©2005  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 9, 2005.

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