Just because HBO received 124 Emmy nominations last week doesn't mean that the premium cable channel can't make a series that falls short of excellence. Anyone remember Mind of the Married Man or K Street?
Entourage, an ensemble comedy series about four young male friends from New Jersey who suddenly find themselves sharing a Hollywood mansion and living the high life, is not nearly as misguided as K Street, the 2003 insiders' political drama, or Married Man, the 2001 sitcom which detailed the sexual fantasies of a newspaper columnist. (In fact, by the third week when it finally stops trying to shock and starts finding a dramatic rhythm, it shows considerable promise in its own way.)
But I am guessing that HBO's older fans will be tuning out in considerable numbers when Entourage makes its debut tonight at 10 after Six Feet Under. The show is vulgar, adolescent and sexist -- and seems proud of it.
Some might argue that the same could be said of The Sopranos. But The Sopranos redeems itself by undercutting such objectionable content in a million dramatic and thematic ways. The new show instead celebrates the sort of crude sensibility found in beer commercials that feature young men out to get drunk and / or laid.
At the center of the series is Vince Chase (Adam Grenier), a gorgeous hunk of a young actor whom one fictional reviewer calls "the next Johnny Depp." He seems to have put no thought or effort into his acting, but his first film is a hit, and he invites his half brother, Drama (Kevin Dillon), and two high school pals -- Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) -- out to Hollywood to share the ride. Eric becomes Vince's de facto manager, while Turtle becomes all-around gofer and house manager. Drama does the cooking, if you want to call it that.
In tonight's episode, Eric, who briefly attended community college before dropping out to manage a pizza parlor, tells Vince to pass on a role that Vince's agent, Ari (Jeremy Piven), desperately wants him to play. The producer is offering Vince $4 million, but Vince can't be bothered to read the script or the contract. So, on the advice of Eric, he turns it down."
If that doesn't sound like much of a narrative, that's because it isn't. Mainly, tonight's pilot offers viewers a chance to eavesdrop on Vince and his pals as they drink beer, smoke dope and talk about sex. Because of Vince's fame and animal magnetism, there is no shortage of women eager to have sex -- even with Turtle, the goofball member of the crew. Tonight, Turtle finds a bedmate by promising to show her "where Vince eats breakfast." More voyeurism ensues.
I hate the way in which these guys routinely and casually demean women with their crude terms for female body parts. But, then, I'm not a member of the audience for which the series is intended: Entourage is HBO's attempt to add more young men to its subscriber base.
And, in that sense, the show could be a success. Entourage is most of all a fantasy -- four young guys magically transported from the working class grind of life in New Jersey to the promised land of parties at Jessica Alba's house, appearances on Jimmy Kimmel's late night TV show, and casual sex with actress Sara Foster. (Alba, Kimmel and Foster make guest appearances.)
It's the same fantasy as that of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, (NBC's 1990 sitcom featuring Will Smith), but less silly, and more grown-up -- in the very loosest meaning of the word.
When: Tonight at 10:00.
In brief: A new series selling celebrity, sex and a young male fantasy.