Ignore the Hollywood glamour, the celebrity-studded parties, the hot women and the expensive toys. Look past the self-absorbed actors, cutthroat agents and arrogant studio execs.
They're all amusing backdrops and plot points for HBO's Entourage
, whose new season opens Sunday (10 ET/PT). But at its core, the comedy about rising movie star Vince Chase and his transplanted Queens, N.Y., homies navigating his ride to A-list stardom is about close-knit relationships, character and camaraderie.
Inspired by Mark Wahlberg and his early Hollywood streetwise posse, Entourage
easily could be dismissed as a dumbed-down guy's version of Sex and the City
"Ultimately, the show's theme is friendship and family," says Entourage
creator and head writer Doug Ellin. "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."
Those core values draw a wide range of viewers. Jerry Ferrara, who plays Chase's marijuana-hazed gofer Turtle, says a fan approached him in an L.A. mall. "She was a little old lady in her 70s. She said it was her favorite show," he says. "It's kind of shocking we've reached that kind of audience." Entourage
averaged 2.5 million viewers last season, reasonable if not blockbuster ratings by HBO's standards. The network hopes the critically and culturally acclaimed series will snag a bigger audience in the coveted time slot behind its high-profile lead-in, The Sopranos
HBO split Entourage
's third summer season into two, holding episodes from last year to air with the Mob drama's final stretch through mid-June, so Entourage
could gain new traction for its "official" fourth-season launch June 17.
' swan song is a rare promotional platform to showcase Entourage
," says HBO entertainment chief Carolyn Strauss. "Entourage
has a really adamant core audience that's been gathering momentum and awareness."
Indeed, the male-bonding phrase "Let's hug it out …" popularized by Jeremy Piven's maniacal talent agent Ari Gold, became part of the cultural lexicon. When Aquaman,
the fictional film starring Chase, opened at No. 1 last season, broadcasters such as MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and CNBC's Joe Kernan jokingly included it in the week's real box office tallies.