Just when I was thinking HBO was an incredible waste of a good portion of my cable bill (I was thinking of getting rid of it altogether), I managed to catch the second episode of the new series How To Make It In America and and I was back on the team. The upcoming original series Treme also looks like it could be worth watching, but gives me the feeling I’ll need to take a thorough, scalding shower after each episode. Anyway, How To Make It In America tells the story of a couple of 20-something hipsters Ben and Cam (played very capably by Bryan Greenberg and Victor Rasuk) trying to carve out success by starting their own clothing line. Along the way, they’re assisted by a number of friends, most notably hedge fund millionaire David “Kappo” Kaplan and Domingo Dean, who’s played by none other than hip-hop hipster Kid Cudi.
I’ll tell you why this show does it for me. I was surprised (borderline mortified, actually) to find out that the show is executive produced by the same team that brought us Entourage, a show that followers of my previous blog know I’m enormously underwhelmed by. The difference here, in my humple opinion, is that these characters are relatable…I’d actually hang out with these dudes. Personally, I can’t relate to the various hangers-on and Hollywood types from Entourage, but something about the hustlers and strivers depicted in HTMIIA that reminds me of my own small circle of associates. I was talking to my best man the other day and we both agreed: “You do realize this is us, right?” HTMIIA has its hand on the pulse of our generation…pardon my cheese. Twenty-somethings today know that these days, the doctos and lawyers aren’t the ones making the real money (sure, you may break six figures, but one malpractice suit and it’s back to square one…or zero). In a world where one can lose a job at the drop of a hat, the only way to “do it” is to do it for oneself.
The characters in HTMIIA are diverse in a way that’s one hundred percent buyable. While staying away from incessant talk of racial identity and diversity, it also isn’t just swept under the rug, with minority characters just placed in to generic roles. Kid Cudi basically plays himself as Domingo, a character I don’t get much depth from, but for some reason, that doesn’t bother me. You wouldn’t get much depth from me off of first impression, either, and every character doesn’t need to have a “thing”. Luis Guzman co-stars as Rene, Cam’s ex-c0n cousin, offering a different vibe to parts of the show, almost filling in where crime dramas like The Sopranos left us high and dry, minus the intensity and violence. There’s even a little bit of romance thrown in, with Lake Bell as Rachel Chapman, Ben’s ex-girlfriend who is dating a well-to-do but square (and possibly bisexual) hotelier. For guys, this aspect of the show isn’t overwhelming, but it’s just enough for your lady to want to watch with you. The part that got me was that the show actually makes New York seem like somewhere I’d want to be. No disrespect intended for all my New Yorkers…I love y’all, but I can’t visit your city for more than two days (this probably has something to do with the fact that I’m a Californian and more of a suburban type…DC is as “citified” as I get). This series makes me want to rob a bank just to be able to afford to live in Manhattan and grab a piece of the fast-paced life HTMIIA depicts stylishly and effortlessly.
HBO bought eight episodes of the series, but one can only hope they’re smart enough to make this an ongoing series and I can only hope viewers are smart enough to talk it up and tune in on Sundays. HBO’s already on my sh*t-list for not continuing Eastbound & Down and viewers are on the same list for contributing to the success of schlock like Big Love and True Blood (for shame), so let’s hope How To Make It In America is a success and we’re not stuck with vampires, the horrible “acting” of Anna Paquin, and polygamist Mormons every Sunday as opposed to a very current, very authentic series that offers up a little something for everybody.