Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Blurry Reality of Entourage

Many times in the arts the lines between reality and fiction blur to where you are not sure if you are looking at an artistic representation of truth or a factual presentation that has artistic merit. The HBO show Entourage is such a work of art that is not a parody of Hollywood but it is not a report about Hollywood. Entourage is a story that happens in a fictional Hollywood that is very, very similar to the real Hollywood. In fact, the imagined Tinsel Town of Hollywood is so close to reality that the lines between real and imaged sometimes disappear entirely.

Much about Entourage borders on stereotype and morality play. The character of Vincent Chase who is the core of the show is very much an amalgam of many of the most striking working actors of our time. In Vincent you can see the striking good looks of a George Clooney or a Brad Pitt but the flamboyance of a Tom Cruise combined the with explosive career potential of a Johnnie Depp. The almost impossible good looks of those actors all point right at Vincent to say, yes, he is shining a light on these popular Hollywood icons.

The close link to reality is made more dramatic because the core of Entourage is about four close friends from Queens going to Hollywood to have adventures and reach for stardom. The actors who play the primary characters in Entourage, Kevin Dillon as Johnny "Drama" Chase, Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold, Jerry Ferrara as Turtle, Adrian Grenier as Vincent Chase and Kevin Connolly as Eric Murphy are young actors from Queens and Entourage is their big break to stardom in many cases. The similarities are both eerie and lend to a reality to their performances because in many cases, they are not acting. These characters are who they are.

The parallel universes continue in the guest appearances by many of Hollywood's best known young actors and actresses. Very often, the plot calls for these performers who appear as themselves to be eagerly seeking the chance to appear with Vincent on the hottest new show of the season where they can be shamelessly self-referential in their dialog. Meanwhile each of these guest stars ARE appearing on the hottest new show of the season (Entourage) where they are shamelessly self-referential of their previous achievements.

Entourage is in many ways a very unique show. It has been compared favorably to Sex and the City and that’s not a bad comparison in that it is an HBO production and in some ways HBO was preparing the show to fill that niche as Sex and the City began to move toward its natural conclusion. But besides being a fast paced show based on glamorous people leading glamorous lives, there are real differences between the shows. The most obvious one is that Entourage is full of warmth and relationships. The strength of the show lies in the strong male bond between the friends that is always what Vincent relies on to help him stay grounded in his quest for greatness.

But like Sex and the City, Entourage is tremendous fun and full of adventure and excitement for the viewers. The inside jokes and the almost eerie disappearances of the lines between reality and fiction that so often happen on Entourage are buried in the fabric of the show so well that it is very likely that the fans either don't know about them or don't care. What they care about is the growth of this core set of characters who, despite their love of fun and wild living, are guys with hearts of gold. And that is what makes the audience love them and love Entourage as well.

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