Emmy Spotlight: Writer, Comedy Series: Doug Ellin & Larry Charles

Jun 6, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Amy Helmes

Special to TelevisionWeek

When HBO’s “Entourage” debuted last summer, six months after the finale of “Sex and the City,” it seemed questionable that the names Vince, Eric, Drama and Turtle-the four Hollywood hipsters at the center of the half-hour comedy-would ever be as recognizable as Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. Now, almost a year later, the question for HBO might be, can the series that some consider “Sex and the City’s” West Coast kid brother take over where “Sex” left off by rounding up Emmys for the network?

Dreams of a nod for best comedy writing weren’t exactly foremost in the mind of “Entourage” creator and executive producer Doug Ellin when he was trying to cap off the series’ freshman season, he said. He just wanted his cast’s approval.

“It was the biggest stress all year,” said Mr. Ellin, who co-wrote the finale with Larry Charles (a former scribe for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld”). “Every day, the actors kept saying, ‘We’ve got to make the last episode the best one.’ We probably threw out two other scripts [before we got it right].”

The version they ultimately chose saw Tinsel Town’s “It Boy,” Vince (Adrian Grenier), hopping a private jet for New York to start work on a low-budget indie flick, but not before a last-minute “Stop the plane!” reconciliation with his best friend, Eric (Kevin Connolly), who had earlier decided to end his stint as Vince’s manager.

“People at the office put the theme song to ‘Titanic’ over that scene as a joke at one point,” said Mr. Ellin, who initially worried that the show’s closing moments were too sentimental for these normally raucous and occasionally juvenile guy pals.

Striving more for good dialogue than for jokes, per se, Mr. Ellin said he’s not affected by the suggestion that much of the show’s humor is relevant only for L.A. residents or industry insiders. “I try to make these guys speak how they would in their world, and if people get it, they get it, and if not, well, then they don’t.”

The season closer featured several well-placed cameos from “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” Larry David and actress Scarlett Johansson (whom the frantic producers didn’t secure until the eleventh hour). “We had no idea if we’d actually get her,” Mr. Ellin said.

Mr. Ellin also appeared in the finale along with Mr. Charles as producers auditioning Vince’s older brother, Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), for a new pilot called “CSI: Minneapolis.”

It was Mr. Ellin’s first cameo on the show. “I want to try to come back as much as possible,” he said, “because the writing’s a lot harder than the acting!”

Others to Consider

  • Marc Cherry, Desperate Housewives, “Pilot” (ABC)

  • Chuck Lorre & Lee Aronsohn, Two and a Half Men, “Frankenstein and the Horny Villagers” (CBS)

  • B.J. Novak, The Office, “Diversity Day” (NBC)

  • Philip Rosenthal, Everybody Loves Raymond, “Finale” (CBS)

    2004 Comedy Writer Contenders

    Winner: Mitchell Hurwitz, Arrested Development, “Pilot” (Fox)

    Other nominees: Christopher Lloyd, Joe Keenan, Frasier (NBC), “Goodnight Seattle”; Garrett Donovan, Neil Goldman, Scrubs (NBC), “My Screwup”; Michael Patrick King, Sex and the City (HBO), “An American Girl in Paris (Part Deux)”; Julie Rottenberg, Elisa Zuritsky, Sex and the City (HBO), “The Ick Factor”