Available On: HBO
Number of Seasons: 8
Now that our new TV/Film section has officially been launched, fellow culture writer Evan Northrup and I will be doing Movie Monday and TV Tuesday- weekly opinion pieces about our favorite movies and shows.
For my first installment of TV Tuesday, I have chosen a show that I hold near and dear to my heart- Entourage.
First aired in 2004, Entourage quickly joined the list of game-changing, rule-breaking HBO shows. Created by Doug Ellin and executively produced by Mark Wahlberg, the show is loosely based on Wahlberg’s experiences in Hollywood with his own “entourage”.
The Mark Wahlberg of the show is Vincent Chase, played by Adrian Grenier. Vinny’s entourage fully consists of his lifelong friends who grew up with him in Queens- Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly), Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dillon), and “Turtle” (Jerry Ferrara). Outside of their inner circle but close to it, Jeremy Piven plays Ari Gold, Vince’s power-hungry agent.
Now that I’ve briefly introduced the characters to you, allow me to do a breakdown of their personalities while spoiling as little as I can. The characters are uniquely rich and the cast is superb, painting a picture of brotherhood and the camaraderie that comes along with it.
As star of the show, Vince brings all of the “big dawg” energy you would expect while still managing to be down-to-earth and genuine most of the time. A self-proclaimed pretty boy, much of Entourage surrounds Vince’s steadily-skyrocketing fame and seemingly-endless adoration from women (as well as his top-notch game, but then again, you don’t need much game if you look like he does).
After making the jump from lower-class life in Queens to the greatest heights of Hollywood, Vince became the “one to watch” in show business. Despite his rapid rise to stardom, Vince never loses touch of his humility- often emphasizing that he’s still just a regular guy despite what surrounds him. Vince takes good care of his friends and family, always there when they need his help- sometimes even when they insist against it. Much to the chagrin of his management, his helpfulness often leads to reckless financial decisions. But, when he’s making M’s every time he works, he’s always able to keep the empire afloat.
While it may seem obvious as he’s the star, Vince is arguably the most likable Entourage character when it’s all said and done. He has flaws like anyone does, but he’s quite humble and hospitable for an A-list actor with his looks and status.
ERIC “E” MURPHY
Eric, typically referred to as “E” by those close to him, is Vince’s manager and best friend. E grew up in Queens alongside Vince and the rest of the guys, making it through the mud with them and eventually leaving his job as night manager of a Sbarro to make the leap of faith to Hollywood.
In a matter of months, E went from slinging pizzas to managing one of Hollywood’s hottest names. With no real experience under his belt, E came into the role of manager with a chip on his shoulder. Many of Entourage’s running jokes surround E’s lack of experience and his supposed “big bark, small bite” demeanor. Despite this, E consistently comes in clutch and makes everyone eat their words. Vince always puts his faith in E, cementing the strong bond between the two.
E is also frequently made fun of for his turbulent love life and the feelings he catches for women he just met, often dubbed as the “softie” of the group. E is one of the show’s nicer characters, but don’t get on his bad side- he’ll make you pay for it.
JOHNNY “DRAMA” CHASE
While annoying and distasteful at times, Entourage would be nothing without Johnny Drama.
As Vince’s half-brother, Drama lives under his shadow but often attempts to place himself on the same level as Vince, frequently speaking on behalf of the “Chase men”. Drama is the butt of many of the group’s running jokes, but for good reason. To put it bluntly, Drama is the epitome of a hypermasculine Hollywood douchebag. The running jokes mostly center around his spotty acting career, as he struggles to land consistent or well-paying gigs. He is most known for Viking Quest, a show he starred on years prior. He gets recognized for Viking Quest every now and then, but that’s about it.
Despite his hard exterior, Drama has a soft side that he seldom shows. He’s actually very insecure about himself and his career, often caught using defense mechanisms. He’s an old-fashioned man’s man, saying, quote- “I don’t believe in any of that new-agey bullshit”.
He’s a hard pill to swallow, but Drama will grow on you as you progress through Entourage. He does mature and wise-up throughout the seasons, but it’s a slow process. However, his douchiness and misfortune make for much of the show’s comedy.
SALVATORE “TURTLE” ASSANTE
If I’m being honest with you, I just learned that Salvatore Assante is his real name. Through the show’s eight seasons, he is strictly referred to as Turtle.
Even more so than Drama, Turtle is the frequently-unemployed freeloader of the group. As he isn’t directly involved in show business, Turtle finds other ways to pull his weight around the compound, serving as the crew’s driver, weed guy, and “head of security” at times. As the show progresses, Turtle begins to make entrepreneurial moves of his own and even gets his feet wet in the music industry. But for the first few seasons, he’s not much more than a lazy stoner with a big mouth. He often comes in clutch for the guys, though.
Turtle is quite a typical New Yorker- obsessed with all things hip-hop, Knicks, Giants, Yankees, and streetwear. He puts on a tough front that is often dismantled, and his game with women is arguably the worst of the group (although he gets an A-list girlfriend later in the show; I won’t say who). However, Turtle matures nicely throughout the show- becoming more responsible and respectful of others.
Ari, Ari, Ari.
Ari is, to put it simply, the biggest asshole of the bunch. But as one of Hollywood’s most powerful agents, you wouldn’t expect any less. A Harvard graduate hailing from Chicago, Ari made the leap to show business and strong-armed his way to the top without a morsel of politeness or chivalry. Surprisingly, he is a family man who takes pride in the fact that he has never cheated or done anything to jeopardize his family. However, he is quite an absentee father and husband considering his nearly 24/7 work life. Ari Gold is a workaholic if there ever was one.
Flaws aside, Ari proves time-and-time again why they pay him the big bucks. He is one of the best in the business- making crucial plays for Vince and the rest of his A-list clients, rarely ever taking a day off. Even on his days off, he works- much to the chagrin of his family.
He’s a hard-to-please asshole through-and-through, but he does have a solid character development throughout the show and becomes more self-aware as time goes on. I obviously won’t spoil it, but all I’ll say is that he ends the show on a happy and healthy note.
Like most HBO shows, Entourage is raw and uncensored. It can be vile at times, but it’s not unrealistic. Entourage paints a real picture of life in Hollywood- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Entourage reminds you that Hollywood is cutthroat; Entourage reminds you that you have to put in blood, sweat, and tears to get to where you want to go in life and that there will always be someone rooting for your downfall, waiting to take your spot.
On a more positive note, Entourage also reminds you that anything is possible. A group of guys who grew up dirt-poor in Queens made their way to the upper echelon of society, each one eventually fulfilling their dreams. Entourage reminds you of the importance of loyalty and family, literal or figurative. Entourage reminds you that if you break bread with your loved ones and play for your team rather than yourself, good things will come to you.
Looking back, I consider Entourage to be one of the best shows of the 2000s. Entourage is well-scripted and well-casted television if I’ve ever seen it, setting an example for the game-changing decade of television that followed.