"Entourage" Offers Profound Characters

It was just perfect that on an HBO special before the final season of "Entourage," Kevin Dillon asks his co-stars whether any of them thought the show would succeed. They agree no one really did -- except him.

"I believed in it from the get-go," Dillon said proudly.

Seem familiar? It was exactly how Dillon's character "Johnny Drama" would have acted on the show in a scene celebrating "Vincent Chase's" latest hit film, coming after a slew of negative reviews and doubts. Drama would have puffed out his chest, commanded the floor and said he knew it would be a smash all along.

Drama harbors an endearing mix of insecurity and supreme confidence, often making proclamations that he knows all. And yet, why would anyone believe a largely failed actor?

The show's brilliance comes from the character definitions, where Drama and the others can offer layered, profound, humorous and fun examples. Credit the creator Doug Ellin, along with superb writing and acting for "Entourage's" success since its 2004 debut.



Ellin took some inspiration from the beloved 1996 film "Swingers" about best friends who take a memorable trip to Vegas. This time, it's four guys from Queens who go to Hollywood looking to make it big. And, despite the ups and downs, remain tight.

"Entourage" begins its eighth and final season Sunday, having served as the last in a run of HBO hits starting in 1998 -- "Sex and the City," "Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under" were the others - that became part of the broader cultural conversation. In the process, those shows cemented the concept that pay-TV channels like HBO and Showtime would have to beyond movies and boxing and into original series.

With "Entourage's" five core characters - Drama, Vince, E, Turtle and Ari - there is an abundance of material for devotees to have an evening's worth of discussion and debate about their personal favorites.

How about over-the-top Drama? There's that ostensible self-confidence despite being a C-list actor, prone to self-doubt and dressing horribly. Yet, he hardly seems jealous of his half-brother Vince, who at times is Hollywood's biggest star. In the coming season, some brotherly payback looks to be coming his way.

What about the meal ticket? The matinee idol Vince, played by Adrian Grenier, has no qualms about taking care of his entourage, allowing them to live in his mansion; buying them dream cars; getting them jobs; funding quixotic business ventures, etc.

Yet, through the first seven seasons, Vince has been the least interesting. For the most part, there's not much depth. Despite a trouble spot with a brief drug problem, he doesn't have a care in the world. He can have anything he wants with little effort. That all, however, looks to change in the coming season eight.

E or Eric Murphy (played by Kevin Connolly) offers plenty to dissect. As Vince's friend since early childhood, he always places his best buddy's interests above all. On the one hand, he's a hanger-on. For a long time, he's a largely unsuccessful Hollywood talent manager -- except for the fact that with Vince, he has one of the top clients in town.

Eric desperately wants to make it on his own, but can't seem to break away. His relationships with women are complex. He's a sensitive guy from Queens, who's now in a world where that seems out of place. His constant stress and confusion may not stop in season eight. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) may be the most irresistible character. Turtle -- midway we find out his name is "Sal" -- begins as a pot-smoking ne'er do well, functioning mostly as Vince's driver and someone who boosts Drama's ego by answering to him as well.

His willingness to just take orders is sad, but also humorous. But last season, he became truly frustrated that he had no identity outside of his relationship to Vince. You feel for him. Turtle begins a series of business ventures -- using seed money from Vince of course -- looking to make his own way, so he can become a successful pot-smoking entrepreneur.

Then, there's Vince's agent Ari (played by Jeremy Piven), whose character is famously based on real-life superstar Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel. Emmy-winner Piven is the face of the show in the public's mind.

His character is a ruthless and scheming agent, unable to avoid stream-of-consciousness rants loaded with offensive language. He may represent the best talent in Hollywood, but he seems to only care about Vince. He can't put his BlackBerry down -- even when he's having sex, he'll take a call in the middle.

Ari lives for the deal and that's about it, so like Vince he's not the most complex character. His relationship with his wife is fraying, however, and season eight looks to offer a less professionally driven Ari as he looks elsewhere for a partner.

How will "Entourage" end in a couple of months before the inevitable movie comes out? The conclusion can really only go in two different directions. Either the guys find success on their own and break away from one another, or it ends as it began: four best friends who can't do either one.

In different ways, both possibilities would be charming and both would be sad.

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