Everything you probably need to know about Entourage can be summed up in the fact that the show's been off the air for a year and it doesn't feel like it's missed a week. I don't mean that in the good/conventional way, either, like when someone loves a TV show so much that a return to a given fictional universe feels like an emotional homecoming. No, Entourage exists outside of time, outside of plot consequences, and most powerfully, outside of reality. Thanks to production schedules and the WGA strike, Entourage has been gone from HBO—even in reruns—for 12 solid months, and (a) no one really noticed, and (b) it didn't really matter.

Since it premiered in the summer of 2004, Entourage has offered viewers the kind of nonstop eye candy that feels like a Maxim spread come to life. The series is ostensibly about the questionable but unstoppable rise to fame by movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), accompanied by friend/manager Eric "E" Murphy (Kevin Connolly). But what it's really about is pretending to be fractionally accurate while allowing viewers, or anyway the male ones, to engage in the kind of deep-level fantasy that's teased in everything from beer ads to truck commercials but is here given a full-on rub-down. Early critics called the show a male version of Sex and the City, but guys don't delineate their personalities on whether they think they're an "E" or a Vince; they're just happy to be at the party. And Entourage is all about the party: Vince's career hits bumps but never derails, and the fun just keeps on rolling. There's no growth or change, not even feigned resistance to character maturation, nothing that would make the show appear to be on the way to becoming something more involving than a 22-minute trip to a world that will never exist for you. The boys of Entourage never stop gaining, and they never have anything to lose.

And it's that lack of connection that's ultimately going to render the series pointless as well. The show isn't about creating a glimpse behind the scenes of Hollywood, but about creating a version of what people want that life to look like: full of easy girls and good times. Is celebrity life really like that? It doesn't matter. The question is whether the show wants it to be real, and in that regard, the series is unwavering. The first episode of this season was called "Fantasy Island." That's not a destination: It's a state of mind.


airs at 10 pm Sundays on HBO.