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HBO's Boys of Summer

The hit show "Entourage" enters its sixth season in 2009 with more stories of male bonding and outrageous fun.
Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Entourage, July/August 2009

(continued from page 2)

As director Mark Mylod, one of several different directors for the 2009 season, settles into a chair in front of two small video monitors taking feeds from two cameras, two golf carts are readied for the scene. Assistant directors place extras—mostly golfers and good-looking women—around the set, giving them bits of business to do as part of the background action.

The scene itself is a key moment in the new season's third episode: a meeting between Connolly's Eric Murphy and guest star George Segal, as Murray Berenson, a Hollywood business legend who runs a major management firm. When Vincent Chase's career flourishes in Season 6, Murphy—known to all simply as E—will find that he needs to devote his energies to his primary client and will fold his fledgling Murphy Group management business.

As the scene begins, E is hitting golf balls with Turtle on the driving range, warming up for a celebrity pro-am tournament. Turtle complains that he's not playing in a foursome with a celebrity, and E chides Turtle, a die-hard New York Giants fan, on his rudeness when they met Tom Brady. When Murray Berenson rolls up in his cart and introduces himself, he asks E to ride with him. "I heard you closed down your little shop," Murray says as they roll away to end the scene. "And I wanted to talk to you about coming to work at my big shop." Mylod watches a rehearsal, gives some final words of direction to the actors, then dons headphones and sits down to watch the multi-camera take on the video monitors.

"This is actually the second part of a scene we shot a month ago," Mylod admits. "Normally, we're more organized."

Mylod, who is also a co-executive producer for the show, says, "I've had a real sense of the show maturing for this season. That keeps it relevant and gives it direction. It keeps evolving."

Over the first five seasons, Ellin and his writers have populated their version of Hollywood with characters who do battle at all levels of the film industry. As Vincent Chase and his friends struggle, hustle, score, flop and, occasionally, retreat, they inhabit a world that is at once highly specific and completely universal. The showbiz plotlines are funny—but so are the stories that focus on their individual quirks.

Yes, there's comic tension over whether Vince will get a part he wants. But episodes can be built around something as simple as E's denial that he tends to become emotionally involved with every woman he sleeps with (which generates a contest between E and Turtle to see who can talk his way into a one-night stand first). Or Ari's struggle to get his son into an exclusive private school. Or a movie deal that has to be completed in a single day, that day being Yom Kippur, when most of the deal's participants, theoretically, would be worshipping—and forbidden from doing business.

That's a long way from the original "Entourage" vision: a barely fictionalized version of actor Mark Wahlberg's Hollywood experience. The former teen rapper came to Hollywood as a music heartthrob, surrounded by a crew of pals from his Boston boyhood, hoping to break into films. Wahlberg made shrewd choices of movie projects and, in short order, became an actor whose résumé includes films by Martin Scorsese (The Departed), Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights), Tim Burton (Planet of the Apes) and David O. Russell (Three Kings).

"When we started, this was going to be about an A-list star and his crew," Ellin says. "Well, Vince is almost A-list—but not quite. I'm sure that nobody expected us to spend five years keeping him down."

In fact, Ellin never plotted out a long-term outline for the show. Though he spent several years developing "Entourage" before HBO finally bought the pilot, he hadn't really thought beyond that first episode.

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