There's a bro that resides in us all. Ten years ago, Entourage brought it out.
"This the life that everybody ask for." —Kanye West
Even at his least modest, Kanye West remains insightful. You can feign satisfaction with your existence all you want, but there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t want to live an elite lifestyle where money is endless and access to the finest of everything is expected. The boast that Kanye, one of Entourage’s many celebrity cameos, made on "Run This Town" speaks directly to what endeared the show to audiences when it premiered on this day 10 years ago. But the chief element that tied the dream world of Entourage together was friendship. Success is exponentially more satisfying when you share it with your friends, hence why the show soared to popularity by activating the bro that lives within everyone.
When compiling a list of stereotypical bro characteristics, there are a few requisites to consider. Bootcut jeans, fedoras, chinstrap beards, and tribal tattoos aside, it’s the archetypal bravado, as well as the rampant homophobia and misogyny that rub people the wrong way. Since its 2004 debut, Entourage’s critics have accused the show of being rife with the latter two, particularly misogyny. In a scathing review written for the New York Post just days before the show’s premiere, Linda Stasi called the comedy "Maxim without the good-natured, goofy humor." Then there was the infamous Seth Rogen beef, where he called executive producer Doug Ellin an "asshole" and "moron," and scoffed at fellow executive producer (and loose show inspiration) Mark Wahlberg’s assertion that the Judd Apatow crew’s films portray women horribly. But the show’s good-spirited upside did its best to save it from the trappings of sexist "brogram" purgatory.
It’s easy to trivialize Entourage and write the characters off as douchebags who hang with an exceptionally caustic embodiment of the douchebag agent, but there’s more to the show than that. The reason Entourage is timeless—despite early episodes featuring velour sweatsuits, baggy jeans, and Juicy Couture—is because it’s an account of stardom shared with the people closest to you. It’s a universally relatable subject.
Entourage remained lighthearted, as a 30-minute comedy should. The stakes were never that high, with most of the conflict centering on the state of the nonchalant Vincent Chase’s (Adrian Grenier) career. That was normally resolved by the end of most episodes through some deus ex machina, but the quality of the show’s writing isn’t what fueled the fascination. Entourage’s greatest accomplishment was connecting with its audience by focusing on fame and how people handle it.
Entourage charmed its way into the hearts of viewers by offering a look behind the veil of celebrity. Vince wasn’t a complex character by any means, but the relationships between him and his friends carried the series: best friend and manager Eric "E" Murphy (Kevin Connolly); his older, less successful actor brother, Johnny "Drama" Chase (Kevin Dillon); Salvatore "Turtle" Asante (Jerry Ferrara), the devoted weed carrier who eventually became a millionaire; and agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who, for all of his volatile outbursts, had a heart that matched his last name. The show’s overarching theme was there in the title.
The pilot episode, appropriately titled "Entourage," made it clear that the show was about one thing: the core group. As the boys enjoy lunch prior to the premiere of Vince’s film, Head On, Eric brings up the possibility of returning to New York for their 10-year high school reunion. Vince shoots it down immediately: "Who cares? The only people I talk to from high school are sitting at this table." Vince may not have been the most intriguing character and sometimes behaved like a petulant child when things didn’t go his way, but he always looked out for his brother and friends, even if it meant occasional financial irresponsibility. When the crew ventured to the Sundance Film Festival for the premiere of Queens Boulevard, he reminded Eric that as the group goes, so does he. "This is our life, don’t forget that, alright?," he says. Bro love is as pure as any other form of affection, and the life Vince built for himself was all but meaningless to him if his circle didn’t reap the benefits as well.
There was an abundance of Peter Pan imagery on Entourage, with Vince and company often acting as a modern day Peter and the Lost Boys and Hollywood serving as their Neverland. They lived a life of fantasy, and the wish fulfillment the show promoted resonated with fans. Entourage was born just months after Sex and the City wrapped, serving as a kind of male response to the sacred scripture that chronicled the life, times, and (fulfilled) aspirations of Carrie Bradshaw. Just as Sex and the City had circles of friends trying to pinpoint their own Carries, Samanthas, Charlottes, and Mirandas, Entourage sparked debates among viewers as to who was Vince, Eric, Turtle, Drama, and Ari. People wanted to see and feel themselves in the characters (Vince and Ari, especially), even if the parallels didn't appear obvious.
Entourage was an advertisement for the eminence every group of friends wants. It allowed everyone who was party-bound in a mid-aughts Honda Accord to feel like they were pulling up to a red carpet event in a brand new Maserati. Even if you’ve never been on a private jet with your closest friends, Entourage provided the same feeling of amity experienced when you’re drunk aboard a Delta Airlines flight to NBA All-Star Weekend with your friends, trading jokes about freshman year. Groups of guys who will never step foot inside of the Playboy Mansion and wonder if they’ve reached heaven on earth, or feel the machismo-soaked adrenaline rush of a massive Las Vegas brawl, were able to do it through Entourage. Though the crew’s exploits were exaggerated (for some, at least), they explored the fraternal bond; a common dynamic that all friends share.
Everyone from the dumbest jock in the gym to the geek luminary wants to be successful. We all have a burning desire to live the American dream. But the American dream goes a level above personal achievement, it’s about experiencing it with your friends—fuck it, your family. Eric, Drama, Turtle, and Ari were right there with Vince when he celebrated his first box office-topping film at a high school house party, just like they were there to pick him up after he bottomed out and ended up in rehab. In turn, he watched them go from simply being his "team" to flourishing individually. That’s why the Entourage film will be the defining bro moment of 2015. That’s also why the film, love it or hate it, will be an extension of the show: an examination of loyalty, friendship, and brotherhood. That holy trinity is paramount to the phenomenon of camaraderie, which everyone can identify with.
Julian Kimble invested a decade in Entourage—he’s going down with the ship. He tweets here.