Great TV can be as simple as a smell or a feeling. It doesn’t have to be structurally complex, twisted like ribbons of DNA with its microscopic genomes of meaning. A pleasurable TV experience can be purely sublime, like sliding a foot inside a flip-flop and hearing it thwack against the heel. That show is Entourage.
The first time I encountered Entourage, I was left cold. It was Californian warm, brimming with beautiful people, but a random belly flop into the pool of the first season was disappointing. I might have been drunk. However, there was something there, nagging away. I just couldn’t work out what it was. I ordered the box set to do it right.
The box set landed on the Friday morning and by Friday afternoon I’d done the lot. The order for season two was placed on a ‘next day delivery’ halfway through season one. Season two was seen off the day it landed. I was high. Totally wired on these little 20 minute-something nuggets of celluloid meth. As soon as Hollywood disappeared – as another box set was placed on the shelf – the eyes readjusted to the grey outside the double glazing, and the soul yearned to be in California. I was in.
The story is simple. Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) is an actor who lives in LA with his two best friends Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), plus older brother Johnny ‘Drama’ Chase (Kevin Dillon). As Vinnie’s fortunes peak and trough, we see a largely Utopian vision of Hollywood through the eyes of some young bucks actually enjoying it for once. It’s quite unique in that sense.
You can call it facile. You can call it crude. You could level the charge that a large portion of the main characters are utterly forgettable. All true. But the sum of the parts is a work of pure enjoyment, as Entourage blissfully pleasures itself, by fooling around with its location and the inhabitants within. The characters have unlimited cash, the cast-list features celebrity cameos from anyone and everyone, and as Kurt Vonnegut would have no doubt Tweeted “Everything is beautiful. Nothing hurts.”
With such wide-ranging luminaries as Garry Bussey, James Cameron, Eminem and hundreds more queuing up to appear this glorious self-deprecating, post-modern gangbang it’s amusing when Entourage flexes its muscle.
Bloke TV is so often miserable. Characters and plot lines that see optimism and fun swirling down the U-bend with a broken needle and a bloodied bunch of tissues. Entourage on the other hand is pure fancy. Even the breakdowns are instantly sparked and defused. With Hollywood and its beautiful women and private planes at its disposal, Entourage can just move seemlessly from one perfect beach to the next. Cannes, Playboy Mansion, Vegas, Cuba… ‘Oh hey, there’s Kanye West offering us a seat in his personal jet.’ Entourage is like that first smell of sun cream. You just breathe it in.
With such wide-ranging luminaries as Garry Bussey, James Cameron, Eminem and hundreds more queuing up to appear this glorious self-deprecating, post-modern gangbang it’s amusing when Entourage flexes its muscle. Even the projects Vinnie and the boys work on are rendered so real, you actually pine to watch them. Aquaman, Medellin, Five Towns, there’s even merchandise to support these made-up shows and films. Which brings us onto the real star of Entourage. The former lead in Viking Quest: Johnny Drama.
There are two men vying for the big chair in Entourage. Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) the beautifully contradictory uber agent and king of the put-down – based on Ari Emanuel the currently CEO of the William Morris Agency – and Vinnie’s older brother Drama. For many Ari’s vicious tongue takes the first few seasons, but Drama lasts the distance, and when Ari fades a little in the latter series, Drama just gets stronger and stronger.
Johnny is employed as cook and chauffeur to his [adopt a deep New Yoik growl] ‘baby bro’ Vinnie. Viking Quest – a hilarious late 90s drama starring Drama as the ‘Victory!’ bellowing Tarvold – and a bog roll of cheesy TV appearances have ended but Drama sees Vinnie’s rising star as the perfect opportunity to revive his own career. A strange creature, Drama could be best described as a metrosexual Neanderthal. Crude, yet capable of evoking genuine affection, Kevin Dillon nails one of the most loveable comic characters in years.
Just as Ari Gold’s busted moral compass is off-set by a loyal and faithful to devotion to his wife, so Drama is similarly curious. A tough wise guy who acts, Drama is seen blending as many smoothies and as he his sucking on spliffs or hitting on women. Drama perfectly reflects the modern day tough guy standing on the shifting tectonic plates of manhood. Yes, you can drink, play pool and chase chicks, but why not cook, work out, play table tennis, and more important of all, shave your balls?
There are a number of crushing blows to Drama’s dreams, including a hilarious cold sweat on the trailer of Wire co-creator Ed Burn’s Sopranos-esque drama Five Towns. ‘Bug Out! Bug Out!’. But the finest is when madcap director Billy Walsh returns to Vinnie’s life after a spell in rehab, to pitch the perfect show for Johnny. It’s a cartoon. A cartoon that features a gorilla. A gorilla called Johnny Bananas. The befuddlement, anger and sadness that Dillon conjures up in Drama’s face, as his best friend Eric starts to warm to the pitch, is beautiful. We love yer Johnny. Victory!
The best of Johnny 'Drama' Chase:
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