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Entourage - Sponsored By Electronic Arts
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on July 28, 2006   |   Episode 109 (Show Archive)  

   

While the entire cast deserves some credit, Entourage's success owes a lot to the brilliant work of Jeremy Piven's character, Ari Gold!
It seems like as long as I can remember HBO has featured at least one or two high quality comedies on their schedule. From The Larry Sanders Show Staring Gary Shandling to Curb Your Enthusiasm to Mr. Show, HBO has demonstrated that if you want intelligent sitcoms and sketch shows your best bet is to pay for extended cable. Some might argue that not all HBO shows are worth paying for (Arli$$ and The Mind of a Married Man spring to mind), but those shows are the exception to the rule. It's easy to forget about the bad when you can watch episodes of Tenacious D and Da Ali G Show.

But lately there has only been one show worthy of the adulation, a look at the behind-the-scenes world of show business called Entourage. Loosely based on the life of Mark Wahlberg, Entourage tells the story of a Hollywood star and his three best friends. It's one of the few shows on television that not only shows men acting like real men, but also manages to keep the laughs coming through a heavy dose of conflict and drama. As far as I can tell it's the best show currently on HBO.

But it's not just a fascinating look at the world of stars, agents and best friends; Entourage also features its fair share of video game related content. Of all the shows I have ever seen, Entourage is the only one

Sony's promotion might be hampered by the disgusting foot care being performed by Drama!
where you actually feel like the characters are playing games and enjoying it. This is helped by the fact that the cast is made up of twenty-somethings that no doubt grew up with consoles and computers in the home. When they talk about gaming it's believable, and best of all, when they are actually playing the games it looks spot on. There's no doubt about it, Entourage actually respects video games ... something you rarely get to say about a television show.

This season alone we've seen Drama (Kevin Dillon) create

Sure Fight Night Round 2 is a popular game, but wouldn't a Halo 2 tournament be just as likely?
a character that looks just like him in The Godfather and the rest of the crew fighting it out in a multiplayer game of Burnout Revenge. And when they aren't huddled around their wall mounted HDTV they are playing their favorite portable game system, Sony's PSP. And that's nothing, last season Entourage featured an entire episode where Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) signed up and competed in a major Fight Night Round 2 tournament, complete with a bevy of video game-related content and characters.

There's no doubt that it's great to see video games getting their dues in a hip show like Entourage, but all of this promotion has me wondering if the show is writing it in on purpose or if this is just a big paid advertisement for Electronic Arts. With nearly 30 episodes under their belt Entourage has yet to promote a video game that is not made by Electronic Arts. Is that a coincidence or is this just another example of EA's aggressive marketing campaign?


I can only imagine what Borat would say about Electronic Arts fall line up!
Recently the video game giant announced that they would be featuring a $20 pay-per-view television event to unveil their upcoming Madden 07. This hour-long show will delve into the behind-the-scenes work that went into the making of this year's Madden, as well as address all of the brand new features found in the Xbox 360 version. The show will also feature a number of gamers who have spent time competing in various Madden tournaments getting a sneak peek at the game at EA's Tiburon offices. And if that's not enough to get you to spend your hard-earned money on the show, then perhaps the prospect of listening to several current (and former) NFL super stars will push you over the edge.

This is the first time the video game world has ever tried something as daring as a pay-per-view event; those kinds of spectacles are usually reserved for WWE wrestling events. There's no doubt that we're seeing the beginning of a brand new marketing push, Electronic Arts is thinking outside of the

The best advertisement for EA comes when you see the amazing facial likenesses you can make in games like The Godfather!
box in order to attract as much fanfare as possible. Is Entourage one of the first casualties of this new television marketing push?

Of course, one could argue that it's not all Electronic Arts on Entourage, you often see the portly Turtle lugging around his PlayStation Portable. No matter whether he's at home in L.A. or out in Colorado for Sundance, Turtle always seems to be passing the time with his PSP. But the truth is that we never actually get to see what he's playing, if anything he's just promoting Sony's handheld and nothing else. Giving the fact that everything else in the show seems sponsored by Electronic Arts it's not hard to imagine that he's playing Burnout Legends or NBA Street Showdown.

With the exception of the EA-sponsored Fight Night Round 2 tournament, most of the Electronic Arts advertising is subtle. The show creators could argue that when Johnny Drama plays The Godfather it's to lead up to a joke about how his once-famous character needs to play a video game in order to work with an Oscar winner. And the times you see the gang playing Burnout Revenge it's rarely done in a way where they are talking about the game, most people probably wouldn't even know the game if they hadn't already played it.

It's certainly open for debate whether these advertisements (paid or not) cross the line and take you out of the show. Does EA's involvement with Entourage turn the show into a half-hour infomercial, or is this what you could expect when you watch a TV show that features no commercial breaks? This is up for you to decide, all I know is that so far they have only promoted EA's quality titles. The moment Entourage starts talking up Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects I think we'll have our answer.
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