Tuesday, September 19

The next big hit?

Big Bri Yates scans the schedules for America's latest Sopranos-style hit but finds Entourage is just following the real TV stars

Most of what passes for drama on our television screens is either puerile drivel, pretentious twaddle or costumed period prattle for people who ‘don’t have the time’ to read classic fiction.

But every so often a drama series comes along that leaves the movies for dead when it comes to psychological depth, complex plotting and character development.

In the eighties and early nineties these gems were made in Britain. The Jewel in the Crown; Tutti Frutti (now revived as a stage play... in Aberdeen); Our Friends in the North: these could claim to be the great literature of their time, redefining the possibilities of screen drama.

More recently we have looked to America for our seriously good viewing. Those of us who believe that popular entertainment can also be art spend our lives waiting for the next big thing, hoping to be in from the start, helping to spread the gospel or simply wallowing in our own exquisite taste and judgement – but these shows have a tendency to slip in through the back door on obscure satellite channels and can too easily pass us by.

I have smugly followed the peerless Sopranos from episode one but I’ve only just caught up with the opening weeks of Six Feet Under on DVD and I fear that the much-lauded West Wing passed me by.

Thus I have forced myself to stay up late, drop everything and tune in to HBO’s latest, Entourage (ITV2, Sunday, 10.00) Will this be tomorrow’s classic, or is it simply an opportunity for a range of trendy young men to drive around in a range of expensive vehicles with a range of beautiful and scantily-clad young women, spouting witty dialogue, most of it centred on the word ‘fuck?’

Last week’s two opening episodes introduced smash-hit actor Vince, his fawning entourage and their glittering decadent lifestyle. It left me wondering whether I’m supposed to like any of the characters, but I’ve spent eight years pondering the same question with Tony Soprano’s crew, so I guess this might be sophisticated characterisation.

Having just hugely enjoyed the shiny Bacardi advert that was Miami Vice (the movie) I tried not to feel guilty at being gripped by the glossy rush of Entourage, telling myself that this is obviously satire! Episode three started brightly, with shots of the boys neatly patched into footage of a boxing title fight.

Later the boys misbehaved at a swanky golf club, Eric – the sensible one – had break-up sex with his ex girlfriend, the boys... misbehaved on a TV talk show, and that was about it. I didn’t much care what happened to any of the characters and the ‘satire’ hinges on the stunning revelation that world of Hollywood is a trifle on the shallow side! Entourage is an easy way to spend 40 minutes when you come in from the pub, but I don’t think we’ll be buying the box set.

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