For outsiders looking into the world of show business, the entourage represents the worst in movie-star indulgence: crews of hangers-on who orbit around the current "It" stars, nurturing their vanity and egotism while feeding off their new wealth and bimbo excess. They live off the fat of the land, with no purpose other than sycophancy, and few interests beyond their own immediate gratification. Right from its neon-streaked opening-credits sequence on Sunset Boulevard, it's hard to keep from hating HBO's Entourage for its slicksters' take on Hollywood decadence, complete with inside baseball dialogue and the obligatory parade of star-fucking cameos. In truth, the show offers up these leeches without correcting anyone's understanding of the speciesthey are, to be sure, shallow and immature playas, propping up a vacant pretty boy who happens to be the industry's flavor of the month. And yet the small miracle of Entourage is that they're funny and lovable, too, four disarmingly innocent kids on a never-ending quest for the next good time.
Inspired in part by the crew of executive producer Mark Wahlberg, the show follows three guys from Queens who have followed golden goose Adrian Grenier out to Hollywood to support his burgeoning career and share in his nouveau riches. Already chewed up and spit out by the system, Grenier's older brother Kevin Dillon was once a minor star on forgettable TV shows with names like Viking Quest, but now looks for bit parts in his kid brother's scripts. Grenier's two closest friends are a study in contrasts: The pug-faced Jerry Ferrara plays a beer-swilling Spuds MacKenzie who's always looking to exploit his proximity to fame, while Kevin Connolly, as the star's uptight de facto manager, frets over keeping them all on the gravy train. As these old friends live the frat life in Grenier's party palace, fork-tongued agent Jeremy Piven tries to strike multimillion-dollar deals for his client while he's still on the rise.
Creator Doug Ellin paces the series with a perfect sense of proportion: Over eight half-hour episodes, Grenier premières a modestly successful starring vehicle (the number-one film not featuring an animated squirrel) and turns down a $4 million action movie on Connelly's advice in order to star in a low-budget indie about a Queens neighborhood. Though the scene-stealing Piven keeps the business talk swirling, Entourage stays in line with its young scenesters' priorities, which are getting laid and making the most of their endless downtime. Whether impulsively dropping $300,000 on a Rolls Royce, picking up organic weed from a sherpa (a memorable Val Kilmer), or checking out an art opening for the deranged Gary Busey, their misadventures have the effect of a contact high. Perhaps later seasons will deal with the inevitable hangover, but for now, Entourage hasn't lost its giddy drunken buzz.