As a profane peek into current showbiz, Entourage is excellent, dirty fun. One of those fictional looks at the industry that mixes characters with stars playing themselves, ”Entourage” is like Robert Altman’s ”The Player” for wannabes. It’s about Vince (Adrian Grenier), an up-and-coming actor-hottie from Queens, and the chums he brings with him to L.A. to, y’know, keep him real. This entourage of buddies comprises both friends and leeches. There’s Vince’s half brother, Drama (Kevin Dillon), a lower-level actor – his biggest credit is that he was fired from ”Melrose Place” – who is always trying to score work from people who really want to be in business with Vince. There’s Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), the knucklehead gofer who’s in it for the chicks and the weed. And there’s Eric (Kevin Connolly), the smartest and most sincere of the bunch, whom Vince relies on as his unofficial manager to vet scripts and guide his career.
Eric butts heads with Vince’s agent, Ari, played with furnace-blast vulgarity by Jeremy Piven (”Old School”). Ari’s the kind of philistine who dismisses ”Lost in Translation” by saying ”It didn’t really capture the place – [Tokyo] is twice as boring in real life.”
”Entourage”’s executive producer is Mark Wahlberg, who knows, especially from his Marky Mark days, how hangers-on behave, and the ambivalence they have toward the guy who’s the center of attention. He and writers like creator Doug Ellin (”Life With Bonnie”) and Larry Charles (”Seinfeld”) are terrific at conveying the way Hollywood life is a swirl of star spotting, deal hustling, and endless car driving.
Each ”Entourage” is just a half hour, packed firm with laughs – at its best, it’s a sitcom that works as a critique of the industry. Dillon (brother of Matt, and a man who doubtlessly knows about living in the shadow of greater fame) plays Drama as an only slightly smarter version of Matt LeBlanc’s Joey. When the guys blast ”Guiding Light” as an unworthy career option for Vince, Drama sputters, ”Hey, I’m up for a soap opera!” and Turtle actually apologizes. It’s a tough town, and any job, however theoretical, is to be respected. The show is superbly cast – Dillon and Piven are the series’ breakouts, with ”The O.C”’s Samaire Armstrong (as Piven’s sweet assistant) and Debi Mazar (as Vince’s brutally cynical publicist) not far behind. All this, plus Sarah Silverman, playing herself, rebuffing a slimy come-on from Piven’s Ari by exclaiming reproachfully, ”I take Krav Maga with your wife!”
As Drama might say, that’s cold, man.