Image: 'Entourage' crew
Claudette Barius  /  AP
Cast members of HBO's "Entourage," from left, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly and Adrian Grenier.
By
updated 4/19/2007 8:31:06 PM ET 2007-04-20T00:31:06

As any agent, screenwriter or producer can tell you, show business is all about perception. So it’s not surprising that one of the best television shows of the last three seasons, which is also hugely popular within the entertainment industry, follows the exploits of a fake movie superstar, his fictional talent agent and imaginary group of friends.

Trying to discern where the real meets the imaginary is part of the allure of “Entourage,” which recently kicked off its fourth season on HBO. Creators Mark Wahlberg and Doug Ellin (the Vince and E characters, very loosely) based the show on their move to L.A. from South Boston. Ari Gold, the show’s colorful, hardball agent, is based on uber agent Ari Emmanuel of the ICM agency. And the show itself has done an exceptional job of putting these characters in very real-world Los Angeles — setting key scenes in the places an imaginary movie star and his posse would probably hang out.

“Given that it’s only showing a small slice of Los Angeles, I think a lot of locals take pleasure in its authenticity,” said Miranda Banks, a film and television professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. “It’s definitely got street cred. And the fact that the protagonists are just as relaxed and casual in places like Spago or Koi as they are hanging out in Canter’s Deli is really appealing. Most people can’t afford a lot of the places on the show, or couldn’t get in in the first place, so the characters are kind of like friendly tour guides.”

Much like “Sex in the City,” the show celebrates it hometown but isn’t averse to the occasional inside joke — the official site even offers detailed scene-by-scene location credits (ex. “Alan Gray, Vince and Eric have dinner and exchange ultimatums — The Palm.”). The series pays dutiful homage to legendary industry watering holes like Spago and Chateau Marmont, but since its protagonists are young Hollywood players, plenty of the locales are age- and income-appropriate, like the exclusive hot spot the Shelter Supper Club.

But it’s not all sommeliers and bottle service. For example, it is a truth universally acknowledged that every coffee house in Los Angeles doubles as a writing studio and a development office. “I go to work every day at a coffee place I like in Silver Lake,” said Ross McCall, a television writer (though not for “Entourage”). “But there’s another spot on Beverly which seems to be more about letting everyone know how much work you have than actually getting anything done. I’m suspicious about that place — the people are way too good-looking to be real writers. I've been writing for TV for almost 10 years ... we are not an attractive bunch.”

It’s not surprising, then, that the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (which served as Ari’s interim agency) and the Urth Caffe have become regulars on the program. It’s at the Coffee Bean that a desperate Ari meets his client Richard Schiff of “The West Wing,” who offers the immortal line: “Am I with you? We’re in a fu**ing Coffee Bean here, Ari.” And the show has a soft spot for hometown family classics. You don’t need DVD residuals to enjoy the pastrami at Jerry’s Famous Deli or the hot dogs at Pink’s.

Image: Koi
Koi
Koi makes its first “Entourage” appearance in the pilot and twice in season two, each time for power dinners over sake between Ari and Eric.
Inevitably, the show has spawned its own niche tourism boom. The Hollywood Entertainment Museum offers a whirlwind “Entourage” tour which starts in Hollywood (Roosevelt Hotel, Lucky Strikes Bowling Alley, Arclight Cinemas), then moves to the Sunset Strip (Chateau Marmont, The Standard, Sunset Plaza, Book Soup, Hamburger Hamlet) to West Hollywood (Jerry’s Famous Deli, the Urth Café, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Koi) and concludes on the Santa Monica Pier, the setting of the climactic final scene of Aquaman (and at this point sane patrons might also be tempted to take a running leap into the ocean).

Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings But you don’t have to take a tour bus to experience the show’s hot spots. If you have a weekend to spare, you can easily fit in a few “Entourage” favorites at far more relaxed, Southern California pace. Bring your shades, your Blackberry and adequate representation.

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