Channel Hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 July, 2006, 12:00am

The finger of fame is, indeed, a fickle one. Just ask Steve Guttenberg, Corey Haim or Macaulay Culkin. One minute they're the toast of Tinseltown, on every guest list worth its glitz, and fawned over by industry types from Sunset Boulevard to Broadway. The next, they're the subject of 'where are they now' specials on E! Entertainment Television and sheepishly answering questions in the street that begin: 'Hey, didn't you used to be ...?'

Doubtless, this is one of the reasons today's stars of the silver screen employ an army of stylists, agents and fixers to ensure their profile remains high and their talents in demand. Plugging into this world is new comedy-drama Entourage (HBO, today at 9pm, then Tuesdays at 9pm). The show centres on Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) - an up-and-coming actor who may be the next big thing - and the people he surrounds himself with, particularly his lifelong friends Eric 'E' Murphy (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and his half-brother Johnny 'Drama' Chase (Kevin Dillon).

Riding the wave of Vince's success, the quartet spend their time going to flashy Hollywood parties, picking up buxom babes and smacking golf balls onto Pierce Brosnan's roof from the balcony of their rented mansion. Meanwhile, they endeavour to further Vince's career with the help of ruthless agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) and forthright yet motherly publicist Shauna (Debi Mazar).

A laidback and nonchalant character, Vince is dedicated to enjoying the good life, preferably without being troubled by such trifles as reading scripts or deciding on roles. The important decisions, therefore, are left up to Eric, a state of affairs that frequently causes him to cross swords with the money-minded Ari. Johnny is a washed-up bit-part actor overshadowed by his half-brother's success, while Turtle is the gang's gopher, willing to turn his hand to any task to maintain his freeloading lifestyle. The second episode, for example, sees him suit up in protective gear to test the ferocity of Vince's new guard dog, in exchange for an invite to a party at the Playboy Mansion. 'Could you get laid without Vince? That's the question,' asks Eric of Turtle at one point.

'Do I give a f***? That's the answer,' comes the reply.

This kind of banter cracks back and forth between the principals throughout and the actors are so suited to their roles they seem familiar after just a couple of episodes. Piven is particularly good as the fast-talking and cynical agent, and his catchphrase, 'Let's hug it out, bitch', is destined for mass use.

The scripts are packed with in-jokes about the entertainment industry (such as when one character considers a role in 'CSI: Minneapolis'), and this sense of irony even extends to the casting: Kevin Dillon, the not-quite-as-successful brother of actor Matt Dillon (Crash) playing Vince's not-quite-as-successful brother, for example. The show also features numerous celebrity cameos, with Jessica Alba, Val Kilmer and Scarlett Johansson all popping up in the first series. The first episode contains a fleeting appearance by Mark Whalberg, on whose experiences the show is apparently based.

After Sunday's opening salvo, HBO will show two episodes every Tuesday, going straight into season two after the eight-episode season one is finished. If you can't wait that long, however, tune in to HBO Signature, which will show two episodes nightly from tonight until August 9. Prepare to wish you were famous.

Of course, in the world of showbiz, you can't have a party without a party planner, which is where celebrity shindig co-ordinator David Tutera comes in. Party Planner with David Tutera (Discovery Travel & Living, Thursdays at 9pm) reveals the behind-the-scenes efforts in creating some of New York's ritziest bashes. From finding the perfect venue to dreaming up a theme to creating the menu and invitations, Tutera takes care of every aspect of his demanding clientele's soirees. The first episode sees the particularly camp and camply particular Tutera organise an upmarket office party for a promotions company.

Returning for a fourth season this week, meanwhile, is CSI: Miami (AXN, Wednesdays at 11pm). The first episode sees Horatio Caine (David Caruso, above centre) and his team tangle with a Hispanic gang after a shootout in a graveyard, an incident that may be related to the case of a woman who was literally scared to death.

Not of the same calibre as the other CSIs, CSI: Miami seems to have been devised for people with short attention spans. Perhaps CSI: ADD would be a more apt title. Caine generally finds the crucial evidence almost instantly, the wheels of justice move implausibly quickly and suspects usually spill the required beans after the briefest of interrogations by the ginger-haired detective. Has no one on this show ever considered asking for a lawyer before confessing all?

In its favour, this series looks like being the most action-packed to date if this opening instalment is anything to go by, and it is still the third best CSI show around - at least until CSI: Minneapolis gets the green light.



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