'Entourage' First Episode: THR's 2004 Review
"'Entourage' works for the masses as a brilliantly caustic look at those who harbor delusions of entitlement."
More than a decade before the movie version, HBO debuted a new half-hour comedy featuring a "slimeball" agent, a "slacker" star and a few stray friends navigating the "suffocating egocentrism" of Hollywood. Viewers greeted Entourage on July 18, 2004, and the show quickly became a mainstay of the network for eight seasons. The Hollywood Reporter's original review follows.
Readers of this publication can't help but get a tremendous rush from watching Entourage, a kicky, crackling and sublimely ambitious new HBO comedy series that skillfully circumvents the genre's shortcomings by attaching a savagely realistic veneer.
It shows us that comedy isn't really dead, it's merely been snoozing, and this savvy shot of character-driven adrenaline serves as the wake-up call. Packed with brutal showbiz truths and snappy dialogue, the half-hour is revelatory in the clever way it spotlights the empty shell of celebrityhood and the party-hearty superficiality of those caught up in its reflected glow.
Entourage demonstrates that executive producer Mark Wahlberg learned well his lessons of young stardom dating to his blazing-hot Marky Mark days. He understands from personal experience the way that hangers-on behave, elevating their own status to that of the star in their orbit and yet at the same time dismissing him as simply a necessary evil. In that way the show is so far inside that you can practically see into its marrow — and yet Entourage works for the masses as a brilliantly caustic look at those who harbor delusions of entitlement.
The show tells the story of Vince (Adrien Grenier), a pretty boy from Queens who is more looks than talent and smarts but is happening nonetheless. He's surrounded himself at a Los Angeles mansion with three of his peeps from back home: Eric (Kevin Connolly), the street smart tough who serves as Vince's de facto manager and script reader; Drama (Kevin Dillon), a dimwit of a bit-part actor and Vince's half-brother who once did a guest spot on Pacific Blue and was fired from Melrose Place; and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), a clueless errand boy who is rarely without a babe and a joint. They tool around town toking weed, picking up the ever-available hot chicks and ruminating about their own, decidedly dubious importance in the cosmos.
Vince is succeeding in spite of himself, a slacker who is content to allow the tide to wash him from party to party. Struggling to rouse his client out of this stupor is is scathingly oily agent Ari (career-making work from Jeremy Piven), who is constantly frustrated by the fact that he must deal with the brooding and intense Eric rather than his client — who is about to turn down a $4 million offer. (Ari: "It's Die Hard at Disneyland — what's not to love?")
The opening episode — penned by series creator Doug Ellin and energetically directed by David Frankel — adroitly sets the table for the show's sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll sensibility, while the second (from Ellin and director Julian Farino) insightfully illustrates the shallow self-deception and impulsivity that drive young Hollywood. A host of real stars — from Jessica Alba to Luke Wilson to Jimmy Kimmel to Sarah Silverman — appear as themselves in the opening trio of shows, lending an added layer of realism to the cynical mix.
If there is a weakness to Entourage, it may be that its principals are so unremittingly hedonistic and narcissistic that it's nearly impossible to care about them. But that feeling passes quickly, since the show is such good nasty fun. It entertainingly captures the suffocating egocentrism bred by a seductive Hollywood culture that transforms nobodies into somebodies without bothering to tell them their ticket is only a day-pass. And watch for this to be Piven's breakout role. His agent Ari is a creation of slimeball wonder. — Ray Richmond