Salt Lake City Weekly | May 26, 2005

HBO kicks off summer right with Entourage and The Comeback … oh, and Six Feet Under.



If everyone who’s ever threatened to drop their HBO subscription after the season finale of their must-see series (like, say, the just-wrapped Deadwood), or insist they won’t re-up until that long-long-long-in-production favorite finally returns (like, say, The Sopranos in 2006, or Curb Your Enthusiasm … who the hell knows?) actually followed through …

But, you’re all talk. No one’s cutting the cord, because HBO is masterful at doling out its original series over years, as well as never showing its programming hand until the last possible minute (“The new season of ________ begins … in five minutes! Aren’t you glad you’re paid-up?”).

You never really know when something great is just around the HBO corner—like the second round of Entourage (season premiere Sunday, June 5), the slick Hollywood-bling series that simultaneously glamorizes and takes the piss out of the film industry and celebrity. Sure, when this Mark Wahlberg-produced show debuted last year, it got off to an annoyingly shaky-slow start more interested in projecting self-absorbed cool punctuated with too-easy showbiz-pitch gags (“Matterhorn! It’s Die Hard at Disneyland!”). But then it got good.

Slowly, the focus shifted off hot rising movie star Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier, who may or may not be playing Wahlberg himself) onto the actual entourage of Entourage: The childhood Noo Yawk buds he brought to La-La Land, Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and actor brother Johnny “Drama” (Kevin Dillon, stealing damned near every scene), as well as his shark-in-shark’s-clothing agent Ari (Jeremy Piven, chewing Dillon’s leftover scenery). Throw in inspired characters like bohemian director/Sundance wunderkind Billy Walsh (Rhys Coiro, yet another guy with more charisma than Grenier) who’s determined to give Vince some cred in a low-budget indie-flick, and you’ve got A-1 Hollywood satire with a ring of truth.

As Season 2 opens, Vince is facing the truth that, while he’s been out of Los Angeles for eight months working on Walsh’s Queens Boulevard, his box-office heat has cooled and the offers have dried up. Glass half-full, the one work prospect Ari has lined up for him is the lead in a mega-budget studio superhero movie … Aquaman (“It’s Spider-Man—underwater!”). From the outset, Entourage’s new season is faster and funnier than before, and Grenier has almost developed a presence—he’s still no Johnny Drama, though.

And neither are Lisa Kudrow, arguable the most talented of late Friends cast (hey, she played two characters), but also the one you’d have least expected to dive headfirst into a cinema-verite HBO series of comic self-humiliation and professional defeat that almost makes Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm look like a Tony Robbins infomercial. Think This is Spinal Tap meets The E! True Hollywood Story, or Nontourage.

The Comeback (debuting after Entourage) is a show about a reality show being filmed around another show—already there’s more going on here than in the entire first season of Joey. Valerie Cherish (Kudrow) is a 40-year-old B-list star who headlined a B-grade sitcom hit in the ‘90s, but she’s now so desperate for a job that she agrees to be the subject of a behind-the-scenes network reality show linked to a sitcom she’s landed a role on. Valerie thinks it’s a Sex and the City-type show with her as the Carrie, but when she shows up on set, all the other players are 19 and she’s recast to the background as a sassy aunt (literally, named “Aunt Sassy”). Uncomfortable handheld-camera wackiness ensues.

Where The Comeback is cringingly hysterical, fifth-season-and-out HBO drama Six Feet Under (season premiere Monday, June 6) stays the downward spiral of just cringing. The thumbnail for the new season: Everybody’s miserable, some are going nuts, the once-perfect comic/tragic balance of the show is as dead as Lisa (and she won’t even stay dead). Maybe Carnivale wasn’t so bad, after all …

Then again, this could be another brilliant HBO ploy, making you hate 6FU’s characters so much you won’t even miss ‘em by the time they sign off forever in August. Way ahead of you.

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