|Entourage: The Complete First Season (2004)
Starring: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven
Once in a great while a new series debuts that restores all hope in television, but it’s an even rarer feat when that show is a comedy. We’ve seen a few comedies squeeze through the cracks over the past years, with shows like “Arrested Development” and “Scrubs” offering a steady supply of clever, unconventional humor. “Sex and the City” opened a new outlet of humor for women audiences all around the world, but when the series ended after only six seasons, HBO was left wondering what fresh slice of programming would be their next big thing. “Entourage” may have hit the airwaves with little advertising, but it received enough critical support to qualify the series as HBO’s summer season Ark. Smart, funny and incredibly addictive, “Entourage” is not only the best new comedy on television, but it’s also the long-awaited male counterpart to SJP and her trio of sex-addicted gal pals.
What would you do if your best friend was a Hollywood movie star? Better yet, what if your best friend was Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), the sexy young actor who's been christened as the latest It-boy of the industry? This is the premise of “Entourage,” where Vincent's three childhood friends make his fame their fortune. Wherever Vince is, they’re right behind him. You could even call them his entourage (are you beginning to see the tie-in here?), a must for any rising Hollywood star looking to make a dent in the movie scene. There’s best friend Eric (Kevin Connolly), Vince’s closest confidant and manager-in-training; freeloading weasel Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), who shows no qualms about taking advantage of the current situation; and Vince’s half-brother Johnny “Drama” (Kevin Dillon), an aspiring B-list actor whose minimal success is overshadowed by Vince’s spotlight. Also along for the ride is Vince’s high-powered talent agent Ari (Jeremy Piven), an aggressive Hollywood asset who constantly clashes with Eric’s humble decision-making skills.
The first season of the series follows the group of friends just after the premiere of Vince’s latest film, “Head On.” Waiting for the first review of the film may be suspenseful, but as long as they want to continue living the luxurious Hollywood lifestyle, they’ll have to set their sights on his next movie first. Ari wants Vince to cash in on a big-budget action-adventure film entitled “Matterhorn,” while Eric fights for a low-budget independent feature that may not pay as much, but has the makings of an instant classic. Vince trusts Eric’s regular-guy instincts, but Ari isn’t getting paid the big bucks for nothing, and while the raging conflict between the two opposites heats up, the guys enjoy a bachelor’s life filled with parties and girls. The best part about the series is that it shoots on location, so the trendy restaurants you see them eating at and the hip clubs they hang out in are genuine hot spots. Furthermore, because Vince is an up-and-coming star, he runs into a multitude of Hollywood personalities, and this first season of the show is teeming with cameos by Jessica Alba, Mark Wahlberg, Larry David, Luke Wilson, Jimmy Kimmel and more.
The writing for the show is never lacking, and its tight cast of five is a perfect fit. Especially brilliant on the show is Piven as the short-tempered agent and Connolly as the everyman on whom the show is secretly centered, but don’t count out Kevin Dillon with his so-pitiful-it’s-funny performance as Vince’s older brother. Dillon, who is the real-life (and less successful) brother of Matt Dillon, is also playing a role in which Donnie Wahlberg (the older and less successful brother of “Entourage” producer Mark Wahlberg) would be quite familiar with. My only complaint with the series is that it isn’t long enough, and with only eight half-hour episodes making up the entire first run of the series, it isn’t very difficult to watch these in one sitting. I’ve been known to gripe about cable series running only 13 episodes (i.e. “The Shield” and “The Sopranos”), so imagine my distaste when I saw half as many for “Entourage.”
The DVD release for the first season of the show isn’t exactly amazing either, but following suit with past HBO shows, the series has been packaged in a near-indestructible DVD box resembling a book. Presented on two discs are the first season’s eight episodes (four to a disc) transferred over in a 4:3 widescreen video and a 2.0 Dolby soundtrack. Along with episode guides that appear on both discs are three audio commentaries with creator Doug Ellin and executive producer Larry Charles (formerly of the “Seinfeld” writing team). Disc one features a commentary track on the pilot episode, while disc two contains tracks on episodes six and eight. The commentaries offer great insight into the making of the series – more so than the 10-minute featurette on disc two – but it would have been nice to hear from the cast as well. Perhaps season two will include commentaries with only the actors, and if we're lucky it'll also include twice as many episodes.
The two-disc box set release for the first season of “Entourage” is by no means a flashy display of DVD technology. It offers a meager audio track and an unappealing collection of special features, but since when has HBO been known for their groundbreaking DVDs? Instead, the cable powerhouse has spent the past decade creating award-winning programming that has become the It-topic at every water cooler across the nation, and “Entourage” is no exception, mixing smart writing and a vibrant cast to produce one of the best television comedies of its time.