Entourage: The Complete Series
HBO // Unrated // $299.99 // November 6, 2012
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted November 10, 2012
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Entourage Complete Series Blu-ray Review

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Entourage begins as a series about the rising star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his group of close friends. Over the course of the series, a lot changes as the storylines progress and these characters grow and evolve. One thing remains a constant; this is a series about the friendships between the characters and their closeness remained the main point of the series. At its heart, Entourage was always really just a show about a group of friends and their life experiences together. It was a series about much more than just Hollywood glamour and lifestyles and massive budget films. It was a series about the struggles of people, the importance of the friendships we make, and the magnificent journey's taken in life itself. Entourage was a phenomenal journey of eight-seasons of first-rate television. HBO produced another hit television series worth revisiting for longtime fans and discovering for the first time by unacquainted viewers.

Entourage is a constantly entertaining series and one that is filled to the brim with hilarious characters, scenarios, and exciting turns in the story. Vincent Chase is the Hollywood actor turned superstar celebrity. He's one of the few Hollywood elite. His friends (his entourage) consist of Eric (Kevin Connolly), Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), alongside the overenthusiastic agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). Eric (who everyone calls E) remained Vince's best friend since the two began growing up in New York together. Then there's Johnny Drama, who is Vince's own older brother. The two of them are equally the inseparable pair (well, I would technically say that all four of these characters remained as practically inseparable). Turtle is the youngest of the four and when compared to everyone remaining in the main group and arguably the most joyful and carefree at the start of things.  Lastly, Ari Gold is a genuine through-and-through member of the entourage of Vince and throughout the entire series he's often the one character to impress beyond everyone else.

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Counting Ari Gold as a member of the entourage seems to me to be an absolutely easy one to call; it's a total no-brainer for me, because the character is so essential to the entire dynamics. Without Ari the entire entourage would be in a massive pickle from episode one to the series conclusion. Instead, audiences are treated to a long ride of many ups and downs in the career establishment, downfall, and rise of Vince.  Ari made Vince a Hollywood star and he helped everyone in the group out enormously to find pathways of their own. Ari Gold is true "Gold" when it comes to being an agent.  

Ari's also a great friend to most of the characters on the show, but it takes a long time to fully recognize that. Ari is one of the strangest, out-there, and over-the-top characters in television history and Piven makes him a character that you often can't stand on one level but somehow you find yourself becoming a fan of Ari Gold anyway. One of the interesting things about the character is how often he manages to say the most absurd, over-the-top, and offensive things while somehow coming off as a character that this is actually someone who cares immensely about the people around him. Piven deserved every one of his Emmy nominations and wins, because he carried this character into realms of unexpected success in playing the part with immense gusto and style.

Even when Ari Gold is being the biggest jerk on the planet (and I definitely think Ari is capable of claiming that accomplishment sometimes!) he's also a strangely good person who is making the lives of everyone else a lot easier to some degree (even while increasing the hardships on himself and his wife, who seems to have to deal with the most frustrating aspects of Ari too).  There are few characters in television more compelling and surprising than Ari Gold.


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What about the rest of the cast members? Entourage truly has one of the great television casts of all time. There's something about this cast that just perfectly clicked from the get-go and as this series progresses it becomes even more apparent how lucky everyone was from that initial work done in casting of these characters, because the cast wound up being so undeniably perfect. It's one of the main reasons that the series worked so well and for so long.

I'm genuinely amazed by how great everyone is in the main cast throughout the entire series run. It's rare to find something on television with such a remarkable cast contributing so many great performances and for such a long time. Every once in a while it manages to happen and this is one of the few series to actually pull that kind of quality off well.  Entourage is filled with the impressive performances one would hope to find.

Some of the best parts are also from the supporting cast. Ari's workplace assistant Llyod (Rex Lee) is one of the best comical supporting roles I have seen. The duo has a decidedly offbeat working relationship but it is one that provides the series with some of its best moments, and both actors do a great job bouncing lines of dialogue off of one another with precise skill. It never ceases to amaze me how these characters work so well in unison on the show. 


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I was constantly impressed by two additional supporting roles, that of Billy Walsh (Rhys Coiro), an indie filmmaker turned overblown studio director with a giant ego that never disappears for a lone moment. Walsh writes and directs (and also rewrites) several of the films Vince becomes attached to as the lead actor (such as Queens Boulevard).  Shauna (Debi Mazar) is a publicity manager who makes sure that Vince and company don't look like total idiots all the time and without her, well, they probably would a lot of the time. She's another great character but not one utilized as frequently as I sometimes hoped.  

Entourage should appeal to most big movie-buffs for the massive amount of absolutely stellar cameos made by directors, actors, and others in the studio system. Some of the greatest of the cameos include work by James Cameron, Peter Jackson, M. Night Shyamalan, Gus Van Sant, and Martin Scorsese. They all get to flex their acting muscles. Fans who are familiar with the series know that this is one of the coolest things about Entourage, because you are constantly wondering what Hollywood celebrity or filmmaker will appear on the show.  I sampled some giant cameo names above (and focused on filmmakers as those are some of my favorite show cameos) but it extends well beyond that and some of the fun for a newcomer is getting to see how these moments play out and connect to Vince and the rest of the main characters.


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One of the core things about Entourage is watching these characters develop over experiencing each season. It's amazing to see where these characters end up going and how things develop over the course of the show. Vince becomes more than just a Hollywood celebrity and he has developed amazing acting skills and suffered highs and lows in his acting career path. Eric is someone who goes from being the former "Pizza-boy" manager of a chain restaurant to being Vince's manager and a Hollywood player in his own right when he begins recruiting his own clients. Johnny Drama goes from being a washed up actor who can only rely on his brother to play within the big-player actor world until he finds success with a hit TV series. Turtle finds himself his own business and goes back to school. That's not even mentioning the fact that a decent portion of the series is spent on more than just one-night stands or flings for the main characters but it focuses in on attempts at real relationships (which are not always completely successful for these characters). Out of all of these relationship-based storylines, none are as wonderful and as meaningful as the relationship between E and Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), which is a storyline lasting several seasons and many ups and downs. You really root for the characters to end up together and watch as the storyline unfolds while hoping for the best for them.

Doug Ellin created an amazing series that was capable of actually growing, evolving, and being as focused on the characters as the Hollywood background. Ellin is a fantastic writer, and his contributions make the show work even when you expected it to flip-over and run out of gas. Entourage never had to put its foot to a metaphorical pedal because it was always capable of growing as a series without losing sight of what made it an excellent show from the beginning.

The series wouldn't be the same with someone else show-running. Ellin makes these characters complex and likeable in a way that few writers in television could handle. He also managed to make the show a constant thrill ride with the elaborate orchestration of presenting the positive and negative sides found in Hollywood and in working within the filmmaking industry. This series succeeds on so many levels with Ellin. Entourage is one of the best TV series around; everything about the series seems to work well with a creative and visionary show-runner. Entourage always focused on the characters first and it was never unwilling to give these characters enough time to develop and to be explored. It was always a collaborative and ensemble effort and it's one that paid off as a well-realized series.

 

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Video:

Entourage has never looked better on home media before. Those who own the Blu-ray sets of Season Six onward already knew the show could look great in High Definition, but this is the first time the entire series has been made available in High Definition. This release contains a debut that is certainly worth noting; this set represents the debut of the first 5 seasons in 1080p High Definition and on the Blu-ray format.

The series itself isn't the best looking show around, but it joins the ranks as one of the nicest releases a show has received on the Blu-ray format because it preserves the intended look of Entourage beautifully. The series was filmed using a 35mm camera and it gives the series a cinematic quality that is uncommon on most series productions, so it doesn't look like your average overly-processed show.

This means the show has at least some film grain and it has an unprocessed look that many will champion. It's far better than a presentation that warps the intended look of the series. While it may not be the cleanest looking show around (because it was never a series filmed with digital cameras) this is still a series that looks every bit as good as it ever will with these Blu-ray discs. This presentation is unlikely to disappoint fans. Compared to the DVD presentations, the leap to 1080p is astonishing for this series and a difference that fans will appreciate. It is also worth noting that Entourage's first 2 seasons were presented in 1.33.1 full frame on DVD and are now available in a proper 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio for the first time.  This was the actual aspect ratio these seasons were filmed in. Nothing looks wonky or out of order here. Fans will appreciate finally having the earlier seasons with the proper aspect ratio.

Audio:

Entourage might not have the greatest soundstage of all television series: in my own opinion, a title like that belongs to either True Blood or Lost. Yet it has an undeniably strong sense of how to utilize music in every episode and this is something that comes across well with these lossless audio presentations. The series doesn't utilize surround activity as much as one might expect for it to but it does contain solid depth, directionality, and well-reproduced dialogue. This is a series that sounds wonderful on Blu-ray. It just places a larger emphasis on the dialogue than on the occasionally more bombastic moments and listeners should adjust expectations accordingly. Everything is crisp, clean, and the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation works well for Entourage.

Audio Options:

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

French DTS 5.1 (Seasons 5-8), French DTS 2.0, Spanish DTS 2.0

Subtitle Options:

English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), French, Spanish



Additional Blu-ray Screenshots:

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Extras:

Please be aware that most video supplements are presented in standard definition.  Entourage: The Complete Series contains 21 commentary tracks featuring cast members and Doug Ellin across the eight seasons, along with approximately four hours of video supplements. The following video supplements are included on this release:

Behind the Scenes of Entourage
(10 min.) features Mark Wahlberg (Executive Producer) and the series core cast members discussing their characters and the show. It is a light promotional piece on the series.

The Mark Wahlberg Sessions (23 min.) has the actor/producer discussing the series creation and how the show evolved along with the series characters. Some real-life people who inspired the characters also make guest appearances.

Vegas Baby, Vegas! (12 min.) works as a behind the scenes featurette about filming an episode of Entourage in Vegas.

Museum of Television & Radio (51 min.) is a lengthy PaleyFest panel featuring creator Doug Ellin, the core cast, and co-executive producer Julian Farino. This is one of the more in-depth and interesting extras as series fans get to hear a more detailed discussion from the actors and the creator about the show.

Anatomy of Entourage (12 min.) is a behind the scenes featurette looking at the season three finale.

US Comedy Arts Festival Panel (48 min.) features Doug Ellin, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, and Jeremy Piven as they talk about the shows run up through season four and the development of the series overall.

The Making of Medellin (7 min.) is a featurette about the premiere episode of season four and the unusual fake-documentary approach given to it.


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Medellin Trailer (2 min.) is a fake trailer for the feature film Medellin from director Billy Walsh (the critically acclamed writer/director of Queens Boulevard).

Meet the Newest Member of Entourage (2 min.) features actor Lucas Ellin in a featurette.

The Celebrity Factor (10 min.) goes over a long list of celebrity cameos in the fifth season.

Life on Top (15 min.) is a featurette that takes a look at some of the character arcs and story developments on the show.

A Day at the Speedway (3 min.) is a making-of featurette about the episode One Car, Two Car, Red Car, Blue Car.

ONEXONE PSA (2 min.) is a fake public service announcement with Vince, Ari, and Matt Damon in character-mode.

Inside the Hollywood Highlife (14 min.) is a featurette exploring the seventh season of the show and featuring interviews with cast members.

The Shades of Sasha Grey (6 min.) is a short interview with adult film star Sasha Grey, who talks about her life and career in the porn industry.

Hollywood Sunset: A Farewell to Entourage (29 min.) is one of the in-depth extras included on the complete series release. This is a reasonably extensive thirty-minute long look back at Entourage with cast members Grenier, Connolly, Dillon, Ferrara, and writer/creator Doug Ellin discussing the series final season. Executive Producer Mark Wahlberg is also featured here. There are plenty of moments with cast members and behind-the-scenes footage, audition footage, and more interesting inclusions. Well worth taking a look at after finishing the series.



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Final Thoughts:

When it comes down to my final thoughts on the HBO series Entourage, it doesn't matter that the setting is in Hollywood or that there is an endless array of flashy style in every episode, because this series was always about more than just that. It was a show about friends and a journey they took together. This is easily one of the best television series to come out over television's past decade and it is a series that deserves a home in the collection of many a television fan. If the series even remotely sounds like a series you would enjoy, then it is something that will probably become one of your personal favorites.

This Blu-ray set is beautifully packaged in a sturdy box and it contains every episode of this eight-season series is gorgeous 1080p high definition. Even if you already owned the series before on DVD (or the select seasons that arrived on Blu-ray individually) this box-set is absolutely worth owning as it is the ultimate way to experience this show. This set easily deserves to join the DVD Talk Collector Series.



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