Bless you, HBO. While other networks essentially go dark over the summer—if by "dark" you mean "reruns, lame specials and summer filler fetched from the pilot-season shitcan"— paid cable's ultimate behemoth churns out new episodes of solid shows. This one is about four young guys from Queens being young guys from Queens, except one is a movie star just breaking out and the other three are there to have his back, scoop up swag and build their own showbiz careers as a celebrity manager, hip-hop promoter and "also starring" TV actor, respectively. Based on the real-life Hollywood experiences of Marky-Mark Wahlberg (an Entourage executive producer), HBO reportedly hopes this will be the show to inherit the vast Sex and the City audience. Last season ended with: movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) about to shoot Aquaman for James Cameron (played refreshingly un-stiff by the real James Cameron, one of several Hollywood players who turn up as themselves); Vinny's former pizza maker pal Eric (Kevin Connolly) back in as V's manager; V's brother Johnny "Drama" Chase (Kevin Dillon) looking for a new agent; and V's driver Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) nurturing the career of rapper Saigon. If the focus was solely on these four buddies keeping it real and together in unreal and cutthroat Hollywood, this show would merit a visit. But what makes it sublime is Vinny's amoral agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven, who deserves every award that's been heaped on him and more). Entourage's cliffhanger was Ari being fired from his agency—just as his now only client Vincent was considering walking off Aquaman because of a break-up with co-star Mandy Moore. Or maybe the cliffhanger was Ari displaying rare glimpses of humility and humanity. Don't worry: the writers will surely have him nasty again in no time.
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