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Living the Dream

HBO's newest comedy, "Entourage," makes the best of unearned wealth and fame.

12:00 AM, Jul 16, 2004 • By RACHEL DICARLO
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THE HYPE for Entourage was that it would be salvation for HBO viewers still reeling from the loss of Sunday night comedy after the end of Sex and the City. And it is. If Sex and the City was about female bonding and haute couture, then Entourage is about male bonding and luxury playthings. It is an amusing examination about the priorities of 28-year-old party-going men in Los Angeles and an endearing portrayal of male friendship. The dialogue is funny without being contrived or trite.

Co-created and produced by actor Mark Wahlberg, Entourage is loosely based on his life in Hollywood's fast-lane. The premise is this: Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) is a hot new actor who just opened a blockbuster thriller. His face is on the sides of buildings, he's recognized in restaurants, and girls can't resist him.

The title of the show refers to his crew of childhood guy friends that he's brought to L.A. from Queens to hitch a ride onto the fun. Like Sex and the City they make plenty of time for partying, lunches, and discussing their, um, love lives, in graphic detail.

There's his novice manager Eric, (Kevin Connolly); his half-brother Johnny Drama, whose own career stalled after being dumped by Melrose Place (it's a quiet joke that he's played by Matt Dillon's brother Kevin Dillon and that Wahlberg also has a less successful brother, Donnie Wahlberg, of New Kids on the Block fame); his ruthless agent, Ari (Jeremy Piven); and Turtle, (Jerry Ferrara) who knows he's achieved the perfect life by riding on Vince's coattails and doesn't care. "Come on just [kiss me]," Turtle says to a girl in at a late night backyard pool party, "I'll show you where Vince eats his breakfast." "Well, okay," she says.

The producers of Entourage don't flower over the Hollywood high life. Vince and his pals hit the bottle hard, smoke pot, and are paragons of mass consumption blowing money on an Escalade, a Rolls Royce, a Rottweiler guard dog, extravagant pool parties, and a rooftop driving range.

If the show were just about a bunch of guys on the prowl it wouldn't keep an audience for long. But you have to care about these characters, despite the fact that they are living a lifestyle you think they don't entirely deserve.

Vince gives off a dim, pretty-boy vibe and doesn't even pretend to be interested in reading his scripts. "I didn't even know who the killer was until [the premier]," he tells Eric, while being urged by his agent to read a new one. But he's so unpretentious, generous to his friends, and trusting of Eric's opinion that you have to forgive him.

Johnny could easily get annoying reminding everyone that he's an actor, too. You have laugh at him when he makes reference to the four guest spots he did on "Blue." "I didn't know you were on NYPD Blue," one friend says. "It was Pacific Blue," he says to his laughing friends, a show about bicycle cops. Johnny is so earnest and willing and takes so much pride in his bit parts that you wind up cheering for him.

Eric is the guy whose advice Vince always takes. His last job was in a pizza parlor, but he longs to be a Hollywood hotshot. He's unwavering about a script he doesn't like for Vince, even though the director is offering him $4 million, thereby elevating everyone's quality of living. "We could get a jet," Turtle declares.

Turtle is the short, chubby-faced friend who has been consigned to the role of errand boy. He is pathetic socially, but does his job with alacrity and really believes in Vince's career. Everyone has met guys like these.

The show has promise to be more than a nonstop party. As in Sex and the City, Entourage features a central character with three friends more-or-less sharing the spotlight. But this time around, with the whole group on the same meal ticket there's plenty of room for conflict and for some of the smarter guys to get ahead.

Rachel DiCarlo is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.