James and Angela subscribe to HBO On Demand, and that enabled me to catch up on all the episodes of HBO's new series Entourage. The show follows Vince, a hot B level movie star trying to attain A-list status, and his posse of childhood friends who live off Vince's wealth and fame, hanging onto his coattails. Together they try to navigate the temptations and pitfalls of the L.A. fast life.
After five episodes, I'm a convert. The writing hasn't been at the level of, say, The Sopranos, but the show benefits from being vaguely inspired by the life story of Mark Wahlberg. While watching, you're always left wondering who or what is being lampooned. Clearly Johnny "Drama" Chase is supposed to be Donnie Wahlberg, and the fact that he's played by a real-life lesser-known brother of a famous actor (Kevin Dillon, brother of Matt) adds a second layer of humor. His mustache, straight Matt Dillon from There's Something About Mary, is, as they'd say on the show, tight. Pop star and purported virgin Justine Chapin--she's probably spoofing Britney, but perhaps Jessica Simpson as well? Is this taken from the Britney-Colin Farrell tryst, or did Mark Wahlberg bag some other teen pop star?
The frequent guest appearances by real-life movie stars playing themselves (Jessica Alba, Mark Wahlberg, Sara Foster, Luke Wilson, Sarah Silverman, Jimmy Kimmel) further smudge the lines between truth and reality. No effort is made to disguise locations--in fact, the episode guides online list the settings for notable scenes.
Some of the episodes have been flat, but the hip hop soundtrack is always bumping, and Jeremy Piven has officially and effectively taken over the role of resident obnoxious character from Jay Mohr. Many shows really hit their stride in season 2, and this is a promising start. HBO needed a comedy in addition to Curb Your Enthusiasm and Da Ali G Show to balance the melodrama of Six Feet Under, Deadwood, The Sopranos, and Oz, and now they have it.
Footnote: HBO's Entourage currently ranks third in a Google search for "Entourage" behind two sites about Microsoft Entourage, the e-mail client. My money's on the horse from HBO. Also, how long will it be before someone releases a "What character from Entourage are you" web quiz?