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These boys have some hang-ups

STRANGELY for a show on HBO about being young and male and rich in Hollywood, there are no sex scenes on “Entourage.”

It’s a sex farce without the sex; you presume that the young movie star Vince (Adrian Grenier) has a stable of rotating women, but these conquests are like Vince’s acting talent -- implied, not shown, as if to see Vince actually engaged in the sex act would turn off viewers.

I’m five episodes into the new season, which premieres April 8, and the show has never seemed better as both comedy and benign Hollywood fantasy, the predictable rhythms of each episode (good things happen, then get briefly derailed, only to end in something even better happening) freeing up the writers to be playful with dialogue.

With HBO facing life after “The Sopranos,” “Entourage” is to the pay-cable network what “Sex and the City” was -- a romp, with a swag bag of material goodies (for HBO, that would be celebrity cameos, partial nudity and profanity) for the audience at the door of every episode.

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“Sex and the City” in its unbidden depictions of sex and presentation of boy toys, earned the reputation of being written for women and gay men by women and gay men. The show was nowhere near as chaste or ashamed about the self-conscious, bad ballet of lovemaking as “Entourage” is. Apparently, it’s actually straight males who find sex icky. The self-censorship is even more glaring given that “Entourage” otherwise revels in displaying the spoils of new Hollywood money (in the codified world of the show, you have to have the scene in which Vince buys three gleaming new sports cars on the spot).

“The Mind of the Married Man” was HBO’s first male-gaze counterpart to “Sex and the City,” but the network quit on it after one season and has found its Shangri-La, perversely, with a show in which straight males gaze at one another. Even this coming season, when Vince begins sleeping with his new agent (played by the luscious Carla Gugino), their hot sex is conveyed post-coital, the two lounging demurely in a bubble bath -- a scene that feels very “Desperate Housewives” or “Grey’s Anatomy.”

What have we here, then? As was noted in a Sunday Calendar piece by Gina Piccalo this weekend, boy-meets-boy comedies are in, the latest being “Blades of Glory,” with Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as a team of pairs skaters.

“Blades of Glory” sounds like a sight gag with built-in sub-jokes meant to set off only mild gay panics among 16-year-old boys in the audience. The TV business is much more of an ongoing conversation, so no surprise that “Entourage” has already been copied to more disturbing effect in the form of “Sons of Hollywood,” a reality series premiering on A&E; on Sunday.

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The “sons” are Randy Spelling (son of the late Aaron) and Sean Stewart (son of Rod), with fellow Beverly Hills boy David Weintraub as the pal-manager. “Sons of Hollywood” is the answer to a question nobody was wondering: What if you did “Entourage” with actual Hollywood layabouts, without the writing and the acting and, you know, all that other work stuff?

You’re supposed to gape and guffaw and feel a little pinprick of guilty fascination. But to borrow a Woody Allen line, Randy, Sean and David, having lived so many years inside the bubble of entitlement, appear to have ripened and then rotted.

Theirs is a world in which you stand in a gleaming, humongous kitchen eating from Styrofoam takeout containers. I was hoping the Hollywood sons would get Social Security numbers in Episode 1 (they’re in their 20s, after all, it’s time), but instead they go to Vegas to gamble and cavort and freeload. There’s something gutless about a show that teases you about how depraved these boys can get while excusing it all as harmless because, well, they’re wearing body mikes. And what do they do when not wired for sound from their jeans?

You could say the same thing about “Entourage” (in the show’s too perfect dream world, Vince, Eric, Turtle and Drama are menschen, feet still planted on the ground), but at least they have verifiable skills -- Drama uses his kitchen to whip up tasty meals, and Turtle’s a whiz at making a fast buck.

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They’re from Queens, they don’t know from Randy Spelling’s pampered childhood. Ultimately, what makes “Entourage” feel so alive is that every main character is Machiavellian to some extent. On “Sons of Hollywood,” nobody knows what they want, other than something to do at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, something other than spending time around one another shirtless, playing slap-and-tickle while the girlfriends, quite like extras, enter and exit the frame.

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paul.brownfield@latimes.com

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‘Entourage’

Where: HBO

When: 10 to 10:30 p.m. April 8

Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)

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‘Sons of Hollywood’

Where: A&E;

When: 10 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday

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Rating: TV-14-LDS (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with advisories for coarse language, suggestive dialogue and sex)


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