Entourage, a gleeful, fizzy race through Hollywood, is quite the opposite. The show, executive-produced by Mark Wahlberg and based loosely on his story, clearly digs the man-pack at its center, as well as the guys' smash-and-grab approach to fame. Season 2 of the HBO series has newly minted action star Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) finding his career cooled after a three-month stint filming an indie movie. Still boasting a taste for goodies like the mansion Brando once owned, Chase is putting the screws to his buddy/manager Eric (Kevin Connolly) to find him a big-bucks role. With integrity. Entourage is strewn with inside-Hollywood jokes: Bob Saget does a cameo as the guys' new neighbor, offering a Full House fatherly finger wag: ''Don't you f--- my daughters.'' The whip-quick dialogue drops names like Peter Dinklage, Andrew Kevin Walker, and C. T. Howell. The jokes aren't mocking folks who don't understand them. They're ribbing those who do people who read and watch (and write) obsessively about the industry.
Hollywood politics aside, Entourage, at its heart is about a gang of guys. They screw with each others' heads for sport, but ultimately, they're solid friends. Who knew it'd be so touching to watch them scramble to protect each others' egos after discovering the hot girls they'd slept with were gifts from Vince? (Entourage's general shortage of women who aren't objects of lust has earned yelps about misogyny. Malarkey. That'd be like labeling the chick-dominated world of Sex and the City ''man-hating.'')
Entourage gets its spikiest laughs and sweetest moments from the supporting cast: Vince's power-mad agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who has the nastiest, foamiest mouth in town and makes gotta-run announcements like ''It's anal sex night at the Gold house''; and Vince's brother, Johnny (Kevin Dillon), a washed-up TV star who trails Vince like a tough, eager bunny. A boaster, a yearner, a man with woefully undeveloped calves, Johnny is 10 times better drawn and 12 times more sympathetic than his Comeback counterpart, Valerie. But that goes for the whole show. Strange that a series about a pack of voracious, womanizing, party-hopping dudes would be both smarter and more humane.