Entourage is one of my all-time favourite shows and a big screen reunion is something all fans have been dreaming of since the show’s finale four years ago, but even I’m surprised to see the film adaptation for this middling series rubbing shoulders with the year’s biggest summer blockbusters.
Loosely based on the real-life experiences of its executive producer Mark Wahlberg, Doug Ellin’s extravagant comedy series, which chronicles the rise of a budding a-list movie star and his childhood friends adjusting to their new lives in Hollywood, was a real hit within its native US. But, that wasn’t there case on British shores.
Who’d have thought a show about a pretty boy actor and his moochy friends living it up in LA wouldn’t strike a chord with us Brits?
Sure, that’s a reductive and cynical critique of a show that tackled so much more in its eight series run, but it’s one that puts the consensus of many British viewers in a nutshell.
While much of the entertainment does stem from living vicariously through the main character’s wealth, camaraderie and frivolity, Entourage’s real success is the way its creators dissect the business of movie making. It’s not just a show that tracks a fictional celebrity’s rise to stardom, but one that expertly peels back the curtain on the film industry and removes Tinsel Town’s shiny veneer. It certainly glamourizes an already glamorous lifestyle, but no show has gotten to the rotten core of Hollywood like Ellin’s Entourage. The only legitimate criticism for the show is that it grows stale and becomes repetitive towards the end, but even then there are very few long-running shows that don’t.
Entourage polarised British audiences, but those who liked it, really liked it. So why wasn’t it as successful in the UK? Well, quite simply, because it was so damn difficult to watch.
I, like so many other British fans, stumbled onto the show after flicking through the channels late at night. ITV2 at around 11 o’clock; the closest thing Entourage had to a regular slot. And that was the problem. Not only was it relegated to a ridiculously late air time and already weeks behind the US, but it would always play second fiddle to ITV’s countless reruns and incessant demand to show at least one bad action flick a week.
With such scattershot scheduling it was difficult to keep track of and without any form of catch up service it was very easy to miss episodes. Low viewing figures were inevitable.
The show ran on ITV2 from 2006 to 2009 and despite garnering a devoted, yet limited (by ITV’s standards at least) fanbase and receiving significant critical acclaim – it was the inaugural winner of Bafta’s International category (winners since include The Killing, Breaking Bad and Mad Men twice) – ITV dropped it from their schedule after season six.
It wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last, case of a UK network prematurely abandoning a successful and popular US show – a similar thing happened with Justified on Channel 5 recently.
Entourage remained in limbo for a while before BskyB acquitted the rights as part of their blanket deal with HBO when they launched Sky Atlantic. The entire back catalogue was made available, the final two seasons would be aired on this brand new channel and, best of all, UK fans would now be able to watch episodes less than 24 hours after they were shown in the US.
Perfect. Well, unless you didn’t have Sky.
Unlike ITV2, a freeview channel available in pretty much every UK home, Sky’s subscription-based service was then only in less than half and where episodes once averaged around 200,000 viewers on ITV2, Sky Atlantic could only register a lowly 30,000.
Those without Sky, streaming services or the patience to wait until the end of the entire series for the boxset and risk spoilers, a lot of fans were left in the dark, with only one option; illegal downloading. From 2007 onwards, Entourage became a heavily torrented show in the UK.
Entourage had garnered something of a cult following in the UK. Its 30 minute episodes make it perfect for binge watching and so many fans have since forced friends into marathon viewings. Unlike the diehard fans in the US who have been shouting for a full blown reunion and demanding a new series, UK audiences were happy to wait and our loyalty has been rewarded with the film adaptation we all wanted. Even if seeing it released alongside Jurassic World and Minions does make it feel like a studio cash grab.
The entire collection of Entourage is currently available On Demand to Sky Customers via Sky Box Sets