The true test of a movie star's power isn't how many women he can get. It's how many women he can get for his buddies. Vince (Adrian Grenier) is having a bad day. He got a lousy review for his latest film, and shot his career in the foot by turning down $4 million for a movie described as "Die Hard at Disneyland." To cheer him up, Vince's posse--Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon)--take him car shopping. Quicker than you can say "pimp my ride," the boys are getting stoned in a new black Rolls when a couple of hotties pull up. "Hey, nice car. What do you do?" says the brunette. Cut to the next scene: lobsters on the grill, the guys in the pool and a girl for everyone. Suddenly Vince feels good, and the guys are even better. "Could you get laid without Vince? That's the question," says Eric. "Do I care?" says Turtle. "That's the answer."
We're all going to care soon. HBO's "Entourage" is that rarest of beasts--a terrific new sitcom. "Entourage" follows Vince and his pals as he becomes a movie star and they hitch a ride on his fame. There's his obnoxious agent, Ari (Jeremy Piven); his inexperienced manager, Eric, who's actually Vince's childhood friend from Queens, and Johnny, Vince's half brother whose own acting career has hit the skids. At a time when TV has lost so many good friends, "Entourage" may be the next great buddy show. Perhaps that's because it was co-created by a man with a real Hollywood entourage: Mark Wahlberg. "The show is very authentic," says Wahlberg. "It's all real."
Just how real? Vince is a sweet-tempered city guy who fires golf balls off the roof of his mansion and travels everywhere with his homeboys. Funny how Wahlberg owns a Rolls and a backyard driving range, not to mention having a brother, Donnie, whose acting career has never come close to his. "There are bits and pieces of me, but I don't live the lifestyle these guys are living," says Wahlberg. Such as? "All the women he's with, the bevy of beauties. There have been some women in my life, but this guy is really living the life." "Entourage" originally copied Wahlberg's gang more faithfully, but HBO didn't love the tough-guy stuff. "Especially in the early years, there was a lot of physical violence between us," says Wahlberg. "We wanted regular guys who everybody out there can relate to."
No one would hang with "Entourage" for long if it were just about a bunch of guys on the make. The show works because you really feel for them, despite the fact that they've got a lifestyle they don't deserve. There's a sincerity and sweetness that makes you forget, or at least forgive, their faults. Vince can't be bothered to read scripts, but he's so trusting and so ego-free, you don't hold that against him. Johnny Drama could easily be annoying. But he believes in himself so much, you like him despite the fact that he's constantly basking in his half brother's spotlight. These are the rare TV characters who feel an awful lot like real people. "It's more than Hollywood. It's about friendship," says Doug Ellin, who created the show with Wahlberg. "Everybody's got a friend who's doing better than them. I had 20 friends from elementary school at the premiere, and they were all like, 'I know who Turtle is!' "
You'll recognize a lot of other people in the show, too. Wahlberg & Co. have used their considerable connections to enlist a slew of cameos--Luke Wilson, Larry David, Val Kilmer. So far, Wahlberg has limited himself to one cameo in the pilot. "We didn't want to just plaster him around," says Ellin. Besides, he's busy. He supervised the casting and all the scripts. Next season he's planning to write and direct an episode. And then there's fielding requests from other actors. "After we shot the pilot, we started getting phone calls from people saying, 'Hey, you want to give me a part in the show?' " Wahlberg says. "We had to tell them we'd figure out something for next year." It'll probably get worse. Everyone's going to want to roll with "Entourage."