Sunday, March 12, 2006

Entourage (1x01-1x04)

Oh man, lot of content in the past few days. One general note on the site, I'm going to start putting a spoiler warning at the top of every article. I've noticed that I frequently will mention a lot of spoilers for stuff that's not the main subject of a post, and I feel bad if someone got something spoiled from reading one of my posts. I don't think that will actually apply here, but kicking it off...


Entourage is one of a glut of inside Hollywood comedies, most of them on HBO. You've got Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras, The Comeback and Entourage. In some respects, making a comedy based on your own life reflects a failure of inspiration, but I find the world of Hollywood very interesting, and watching Entourage, it was refreshing to see a show that didn't treat making movies like a burden, and instead seemed to revel in the improbability of being able to make an absurd amount of money making movies.

The show is a refreshing departure from most of the comedies I've watched lately. I love shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development, but seeing a show where you're actually supposed to like the characters felt pretty good for a change. Similarly, not using a documentary style and comedy based on awkward moments was nice. The show works because you really like these guys and want them to succeed, but the show still has enough drama that it doesn't feel sappy.

The show basically presents a male fantasy life, hanging out with your friends all the time without having to work while at the same time pulling in as many beautiful women as you can handle. In most reviews of films like Old School and Wedding Crashers, the general feeling is the joy of the film comes from watching these guys acting badly, and that when they inevitably end up maturing and entering stable relationships, the joy is gone. This show avoids that maturing stage by keeping them in that sleeping around stage.

However, these characters don't seem to be immature, it's more that they've formed a new kind of family. A lot of shows play on the idea of the family of friends, but by making them all live together, and setting up a clear family feel, with scenes like Drama making them all breakfast, there's no sense that they need to grow up and move on, this is what they want, or at least what they want some of the time.

For Eric, the basic conflict of the series is that he'd rather have a stable relationship than the lifestyle that Vince and the others enjoy. But, does he want his own home just because of societal pressures, or is the entourage family just as valid?

And concurrent with this is the arc of Eric becoming more involved in Vince's career. I think this was a great decision because it makes you root for Vince more. If he's just an arrogant movie star, you might not care whether his films do well, but when it means success for Eric as well, you really want him to end up successful. Similarly, the incident with the Rolls Royce, and the potential financial crisis is critical because it means that the lifestyle they're living is precarious. It's not assured, and if Eric mismanages things, it could end up ending their setup.

Of course, the show is primarily a comedy, and a lot of the pleasure comes from vicariously living the life of a star, running into Jessica Alba at a restaurant, then going to a party at her house. This is such a contrast to a show like Curb Your Enthusiasm, which seems all about deflating the idea of fame. The thing is, even if things go bad for Vince, he's still aware that there's nothing he'd rather be doing.

Kevin Dillon as Drama frequently steals the show, particularly in the Jimmy Kimmel episode, or later where he steals the batteries from the remote at the radio station. The Jimmy Kimmel episode is a great example of a story that could have been sappy, Johnny gets his moment in the spotlight, but instead, you're really happy for him. The show earns the moment.

It's a really sharp, funny show, and I'm psyched to see more.

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