HBO CONTINUES TO BE THE PLACE to go for insider showbiz programming. Payweb just ordered a pilot for “The Entourage,” a sitcom about a movie star’s support staff that was the brainchild of Mark Wahlberg and his manager, Steve Levinson. That duo will exec produce with creator Doug Ellin and Steve Tompkins, the latter of whom has just been set as showrunner. Tompkins is Emmy nommed for his work on “Bernie Mac.” Wahlberg’s playing a cameo as will other stars who’ll give a level of believability to the show.

“The goal is more ‘West Wing’ than ‘Larry Sanders,’ because the focus is the guys who grew up with the star and now take care of every facet of his life,” said Ellin, who wrote the pilot. He said the prototype for the star is as much Wahlberg as Leonardo DiCaprio or Tobey Maguire, young actors from modest origins who abruptly became millionaires.

More easily identifiable to the industry will be characters like the star’s rep, Ari Jacobs. The name is a meld of Wahlberg’s Endeavor agent Ari Emanuel and Ellin’s CAA agent Jeff Jacobs, and qualities of both will make up the Armani-suited dealmaker.

“It’s based on real things that happened to any number of stars we know,” Ellin said. “These guys who come to Hollywood with the star are trustworthy and charismatic but they are also rough around the edges and figure out the game as they go along. And that includes dealing with everything from the star being arrested to paternity suits and unimaginable perks.”

The pilot episode will deal with the star’s plan to return home for a high school reunion the same week the biggest movie of his career is set to open.

BUILDING THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: Tim Burton likes working with producer Richard Zanuck about as much as he does Johnny Depp. As the director courts Depp for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Zanuck joined Brad Grey as producer. It’ll be his third Burton pic after “Planet of the Apes” and “Big Fish.” Said Zanuck: “Though we’re still getting the script right and haven’t made a deal with Johnny, Tim is excited about him and things look good for a June start. We’ve already secured five stages in Pinewood. The key to producing a Burton pic? “Keep the extraneous things away that could interrupt Tim’s focus,” Zanuck said.

DISHINGS: Jet Li has inked with Endeavor. He just completed starring with Morgan Freeman in the Luc Besson-scripted “Danny the Dog” and he next stars in “Labor Day” for director Robert Schwentke. Li, who’d been ICM-repped, remains managed by Steve Chasman and lawyered by Jake Bloom… Joe and Gavin Maloof own the Sacramento Kings hoop team and the Palms Casino, and they’re ready to be Hollywood high rollers. First up: a project on the Maloof Brothers. Their life is the subject of a just-shot Showtime reality pilot. “For billionaire bachelors, there are as close as you can get to being regular guys,” said Diverse Talent’s Chris Nassif… Stanley DeSantis will play Louis B. Mayer in the Martin Scorsese-directed “The Aviator”… Tim Guinee, who stars with John Travolta in the firefighter drama “Ladder 49,” learned first-hand the hazards and rewards of the job. He just got a commendation from the Baltimore City Fire Dept. for assisting the rescue of an unconscious woman. Guinee was tagging along with a firefighter when the call came in for a five-alarm blaze. He and a fireman found the woman on the tenth floor and got her to paramedics in time to be revived… Gay-themed programming craze has the makers of standup pic “Coming Out Party” eyeing a TV window before the pic comes out on DVD this fall. Pic consists of gay and lesbian standups recalling when they came out of the closet, said Howard Bragman, the vet publicist who’s coming out as a producer on the pic.

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