How HBO decides to put together DVD packages for its shows is a bit of a mystery. On the one hand, you have sets like the second season of "Deadwood," which was packed with commentary tracks and other features.
On the other, you have packages like the second season of "Entourage," which had but one lonely featurette, which didn't offer much fans of the show didn't already know, among its 14 episodes.
The show's third-season set -- or "Part One" of season three, consisting of the 12 episodes that aired last year -- does a little better on that front. In addition to a sometimes-amusing featurette on the Las Vegas episode, creator Doug Ellin, joined by actors Jerry Ferrara and Kevin Dillon, provides commentary on three episodes, including the Vegas episode and the finale, in which Vince (Adrian Grenier) fires his long-time agent Ari (Jeremy Piven).
What comes across in the commentaries is that the cast and Ellin and his fellow writers are fully at ease with each other, and that the show has fostered a pretty collaborative atmosphere. Ferrara and Dillon frequently point out spots where they or other actors ad-libbed a line, and they discuss the back-and-forth they have with Ellin about the directions characters are taking.
In the Vegas episode, for instance, Dillon recalls being concerned that his character, Vince's brother Johnny Drama, would come off as a jerk toward a masseur (guest star Johann Urb) who mistakes Johnny's friendliness for something else. That it doesn't end up being a cliched, dude-I'm-not-gay moment speaks to the ability of the writers and cast to do subtle work inside what's often a pretty broad show.
The Vegas featurette also drives home the point that "Entourage" is a little tougher to shoot than the average TV comedy. That episode features a number of scenes shot inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino -- which remained open for business while filming went on -- including a long tracking shot through the casino floor.
Then again, the producers all fly by the seat of their pants: They cast a member of Seth Green's posse from poolside at the Hard Rock, and had to send two (female) associate producers out on a casting call for the strip contest that's a big part of the episode. The incredulity expressed by every guy on set that finding exotic dancers in Las Vegas would be at all difficult is worth at least part of the price of admission.
EXTRAS: Commentary on three episodes, "Vegas, Baby, Vegas" featurette