Life in the Hollywood fast lane boogies down the home stretch with a flourish as the "boys" of Entourage kick off their eighth and final season for HBO.
Even if you're coming late to the party, there's still fun to be had in this comedy-drama of male camaraderie that purports to show what happens when a bunch of childhood pals from Queens, New York, follow their "main man" Vince (Adrian Grenier), a hot young A-list film star, to Los Angeles to help him navigate the alien landscape.
Vince's hometown entourage includes his manager Eric (Kevin Connolly), half-brother Drama (Kevin Dillon) and friend Turtle (Jerry Ferrara). As last season wrapped, we left Vince in rehab after the guys botched an intervention that failed to curb his addictions.
The new season begins with Vince out of rehab and enthusiastic about a new film idea, and his entourage afraid to tell him they don't think much of it. Meanwhile, the powerful but slimy Hollywood talent agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) tries desperately to win back his wife's affection, as Drama throws Vince a welcome-home party that reeks of terminal boredom.
"I've been on lockdown for three months. I need some excitement," whines Vince who, despite the lack of any questionable distractions at his party, will indeed wind up with an extreme night to remember.
Entourage, which premiered on HBO in North America in July 2004, was created and largely written by Doug Ellin. Its premise is loosely based on the executive producer Mark Wahlberg's younger days as an up-and-coming film star.
"This year we're going to end with eight episodes. It was the best year we had," an effusive Piven told the Late Show host David Letterman last July. "I get to kind of humanise this character who is very abrasive and is taking up all this oxygen for all this time, and then the wife has had it with him. Mrs Ari has had it. And everything that means the most to him is being taken away. I get to be kind of gutted and emotional and show a soul to this character. It was a blast! I'm really proud of this. I loved doing it."
In its first seven years, Entourage was nominated for 25 Primetime Emmy awards, 14 Golden Globe awards, six Screen Actors' Guild awards, four Directors' Guild of America awards, four Producers' Guild of America awards and four Writers' Guild of America awards. Of these, Piven won three Emmys and one Golden Globe for supporting actor.
Ellin attributes the success of Entourage to the way the fellows take care of each other: "Ultimately, the show's theme is friendship and family. The characters may have the bling, but they're grounded guys who look out for each other. That's the backbone of the show. If it was just about fantasy lifestyles, it wouldn't be relatable."
When Vince finally does come home from rehab, one can hear honest joy in Drama's voice: "All the boys back together under one roof. Just like old times!"
For viewers who prefer a slice of Big Apple action to the LA party scene, an entourage of a different stripe - How to Make it in America - returns for its second-season premiere.
People in their 20s especially will identify with the urban adventures of Ben (Bryan Greenberg) a would-be designer, and his best friend Cam (Victor Rasuk), a free spirit and would-be mogul.
This season they hustle their CRISP line of T-shirts and hoodies, desperate to get noticed in the wildly competitive fashion scene.
Of particular note, and always a treat to watch on any screen, big or small, is the veteran actor Luis Guzmán as Rene, a wily ex-convict who markets Rasta Monsta energy drinks as his get-rich scheme.
"This show is a fun ride through the downtown scene, examining the cross-section of people and how they relate to the relevant subcultures in New York," the executive producer Rob Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter.
At its heart, it's all about the hustle of a new generation hungry to succeed.
"You just keep chugging along, man. And no matter what obstacles come your way, you just make it happen," Guzmán says of the show's philosophy.
"Making it means being broke and eating a lot of Ramen noodles," says Scott "Kid" Mescudi, who plays Domingo, a well-connected street entrepreneur. "This isn't something for the faint of heart. You gotta really believe in yourself and really want this."
While HBO has decided not to order any additional episodes, effectively terminating How to Make it in America after two seasons, Wahlberg, who is the executive producer on this show, too, told GQ magazine in January he was marketing the show to other networks in the hope of a third season.
Entourage (Season 8) and How to Make It in America (Season 2) premiere today and will be broadcast on Mondays and Tuesdays on OSN Comedy and OSN Comedy +2