For eight seasons we followed the ups and downs of Vincent Chase's career as he and his small band of friends navigated the cutthroat world of Hollywood. From humble beginnings in Brooklyn, Vinnie Chase (Adrian Grenier) built up his acting career to become one of the biggest stars in 'Entourage's semi-fictional version of Tinsel Town. Along for the ride were his big brother, and lesser-known actor, Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), childhood confidant and business manager Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly), and smart ass New Yorker Turtle (Jerry Ferrara). Together they led us through Hollywood's "live in the now" lifestyle.
You have to hand it to HBO here. It's true that they've already released seasons six, seven, and eight on Blu-ray. Some people wondered if they'd even bother going back and bringing the earlier seasons to Blu-ray. As we've seen with many TV shows, studios just aren't willing to put the time and energy into past seasons, routinely dropping Blu-ray production on shows, leaving fans with an incomplete collection. The reason I want to commend HBO is not only did they go back and get the earlier seasons ready for a high-def release; they also didn't try to bleed fans dry with individual season releases. Some may be reluctant to buy a complete series collector's set, but it seems much more palatable than forking over the dough as each separate season is released only to find out they're releasing a complete series set anyway. HBO simply decided to release the complete series set, which seems like a fan-friendly move on their part.
I've personally enjoyed riding along with the 'Entourage' crew. There was something so effortless about the way showrunner Doug Ellin crafted each episode. I'll admit, at first, it appeared that we were going to be following around a group of entitled brats looking to live the high life. As the seasons progressed we soon realized that not only do these characters have hopes and aspirations, it also became apparent that 'Entourage' had something to say about the whole Hollywood dynamic. It poked fun at the obvious façade of stardom as Vinnie encountered everything from super-star status to substance abuse.
Perhaps 'Entourage's most notable achievement was giving the world Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). The foul-mouthed agent who would sell his soul to the devil if it meant signing a big client was routinely a bright spot in the show. Even when the show started to falter in the later seasons, Piven's portrayal of Gold kept getting better and better. It was a joy watching him morph into the most powerful agent in Hollywood and then watch him try desperately to maintain his stranglehold by any means necessary.
I will be the first to admit that when the inevitable series finale rolled around, Ellin and company took the easy way out. The final episode of the show had far too many happy endings with the crew, who had gone through so many ups and downs, receiving convenient endings across the board. Is that reason not to watch the show? Absolutely not. Seasons one through four offer some of the most satisfying half-hour premium cable comedy that you'll ever find. The later seasons weren't as strong, but they certainly had their moments.
It's still hard to imagine a world without E, Vince, Johnny, Turtle, and Ari. That's why this set feels like a welcome guest in my house. 'Entourage' remains a very rewatchable show. There's something to like and laugh at in each episode. Now that the show is done and over with, this set provides a perfect opportunity to revisit the show. An opportunity that I've relished over the past week.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a beefy, well-packaged set. People who dislike slide-in disc hubs will be disappointed though. This 'Entourage' set is a lot like the Digi-book type of packaging that accompanied 'Rome: The Complete Series.' This is an 18-disc set. Each section in the book folds out to reveal to slide-in disc hubs, along with an episode list, a list of writing credits, and a mention of what special features are included in that season.
The book is pretty well-constructed, but it seems that with heavy use the cover will get easily worn around the binding area. The whole book slides nicely into a sleek outer case, which features some simplistic art work and provides a nicely compact series set. Below is a picture of what one of the season sections inside the book looks like, along with an overhead picture of the book, and a picture of what the book looks like slipping into the outer sleeve.
When all is said and done you're looking at eight seasons, made up of 96 episodes spread across 18 50GB Blu-ray Discs. The set is region free.
So we know how seasons six, seven, and eight turned out on Blu-ray when HBO released them in standalone season sets. The question here is how do the first five seasons of the show look in high definition? I'm pleased to say that HBO has conscientiously put together very solid presentations for seasons one through five in this set.
Each season has been provided a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that presents unwavering clarity and rather surprising definition from earlier seasons. I was fully expecting a gradual uptick in quality as the seasons progressed, but it was nice to see that from the first episode, all the way to the 96th, the video presentation of the show remained consistently good.
Colors, from the very beginning, are bold. The sun-drenched visuals offer up a variety of strong primaries. California skies are usually picturesque shades of blue. Sandy beaches provide a nice contrast of tans and earth tones. Fine detail, whether it be the three-day stubble that Vinnie is always sporting or the small strands of pot smoke wafting through the air, remains strong throughout the series' run.
There is some minor banding in spots, usually in night skies. There are a few scenes, as the camera looks out over L.A. from the hills above, which feature some pretty noisy horizons at times. White backgrounds have always hampered the look of these seasons with crawling noise, and that persists as a main theme. This is something that was evident in the standalone releases and it remains an annoyance here. Other than that grumble, the rest of this set looks really well done. Aliasing, blocking, shimmering, and other artifacting, isn't seen much at all. Fans will be pleased with the way this entire set turned out.
Each season has been afforded a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which is just as strong as the visual presentation. Across the eight seasons the mix works extremely well working with the strengths of the show: dialogue and soundtrack.
Doug Ellin's quick-paced dialogue is tough to get a handle on when you first start watching the show. It's fast and furious and it takes a pin-point audio presentation to deliver it all with minimal softness. That's what is done here. Even with the quick banter, and with characters routinely talking over one another, voices come across clearly and evenly throughout every season.
The show's varied soundtrack, which seems to rely heavily on songs with heavy bass, fulfill the requirement of the subwoofer to be involved as much as possible. It doesn't matter if the guys are partying at a downtown club or if Turtle is pulling up in his car with the sound system pumping, the low-end sonics of this set have energy and thump.
Rear channels are sparse at times, but that's just because most of the show is front-centric in nature. There are times where they kick in when needed, mostly during visits to clubs, parties, and movie sets. However, emphasis is definitely placed in the front and center channels where most of the action in the show takes place.
HBO has done a great job with all eight seasons here. I didn't run into any egregious missteps on their part. It feels like they thoughtfully went through each season producing an accurate audio presentation for fans that are excited to own this set.
For the seasons that haven't been released on the format yet, the special features included are features that can be found on the DVD releases of each particular season. As a general note, I didn't have time to listen to all the commentaries on this set, because I was trying to get this review out in a timely manner.
Season 1 – Disc 1 and 2
Season 2 – Disc 3 and 4
Season 3: Part 1 – Disc 5 and 6
Season 3: Part 2 – Disc 7 and 8
Season 4 – Disc 9 and 10
Season 5 – Disc 11 and 12
Season 6 – Disc 13 and 14
Season 7 – Disc 15 and 16
Season 8 – Disc 17 and 18
Again I'm very pleased that HBO decided to go the complete series route instead of trying to get all the money they could out of standalone releases only to release a complete series set after the fact. While there aren't any new special features provided for this set, the mere fact that HBO decided to go this route shows that they're keen to please fans of the series. They've also gone through and provided a consistently decent video presentation and a solid audio presentation to accompany it. This is a set that all 'Entourage' fans should be pleased about owning. It comes recommended.