Hollywood high life is better with friends
THIS is the best show on television at the moment ( not counting repeats of The Sopranos or The Wire on W). I’ve always liked this HBO dramacomedy about an emerging A-list actor and his hangers-on and the first two episodes of season five suggest it has clicked up a gear. It’s a seamless 30 minutes of entertainment, engrossing and extremely funny.
For anyone coming in late, Entourage is loosely based on Mark Wahlberg’s experiences as a young actor. Wahlberg is an executive producer on the series and pops up in cameo roles. Like Wahlberg, Vincent Chase ( Adrian Grenier) is a pretty boy with real talent. He grew up in Queens, New York, and the entourage of the title is made up of the childhood friends who have accompanied him to Hollywood.
There’s his best friend cum manager Eric Murphy ( Kevin Connolly), known as E; his older brother Johnny ‘‘ Drama’’ Chase ( Kevin Dillon), also an actor; and his dope supplier, driver and general dogsbody Turtle ( Jerry Ferrara). And then there’s his bigshot agent Ari Gold ( Jeremy Piven). They’re all great fun but for me the standouts are Johnny Drama, mad and long overshadowed by his little brother, and Ari, who’s just mad.
Here’s Ari urging E to convince Vincent to do a particular film: ‘‘ If he passes on this thing now he may as well be Cat Stevens doing butterfly stroke in the Caspian Sea searching for Mohammed because that’s how he’s going to be viewed in this town.’’ And here’s Johnny Drama recalling one of his finer moments: ‘‘ I remember crying myself to sleep when Roger Ebert singled out my performance in Licence to Drive as the
Chasing fame and fortune: The cast of end of the golden age of cinema.’’
Season five opens tonight with Vince in Mexico, seeking solace in cerveza and senoritas following the flop of his most recent film, Medellin, a personal project based on the life of Pablo Escobar. Back in Tinsel Town, E and Ari are trying to resuscitate his career, which peaked in season three when he played Aquaman on the big screen.
It looks as if Vince will have to start again, read any script that comes his way and consider non-lead roles. Johnny Drama, meanwhile, is in a successful TV series. He consoles his sibling: ‘‘ Don’t take it personally, bro, the whole country’s on meth.’’
One of the great pleasures of this series is that most episodes feature real A-listers playing themselves, from Dennis Hopper to Scarlett Johansson. James Cameron directed Aquaman and Gary Busey stole the show a few seasons back playing ‘‘ my crazy self’’.
This season will feature Gus Van Sant and Martin Scorsese, among others. Don’t miss it.