Created By Ian Edelman
Starring Bryan Greenberg, Victor Rasuk, Lake Bell and Luis Gusman
It’s no surprise that I love How To Make It In America, having included it in my 2010 list of overlooked and underloved shows. Now that the series has finally started airing in the UK and Aloe Black’s fantastic theme song has become a Brit chart-topper, more people have gotten the chance to check it out, and on Blu-ray it still holds up as wonderfully breezy and infectious entertainment, and the perfect replacement for a now long in the tooth and thankfully wrapped-up Entourage.
Coming from Entourage’s production team Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Rob Weiss and Julian Farino, How To Make It In America follows Gen-Y New Yorkers Ben Epstein (Bryan Greenberg) and Cam Calderone (Victor Rasuk) as they struggle to find success in The Big Apple. Design school drop-out Ben is growing increasingly bored of the unfulfilling 9-to-5 rat race and streetwise Cam’s get-rich-quick hustles have left him with a mountain of unsold skate decks, no money and a big chunk of debt owed to his newly-paroled cousin Rene (Luis Gusman). As their friends begin to find success, the two best buddies set out to start a designer denim company, pooling Ben’s knowledge of fashion and Cam’s quick-talking street smarts in hopes of grabbing their own slice of the American dream.
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When Entourage first started, it was twenty minutes of pure, light, unfiltered entertainment that flew by in no time. Vincent Chase and pals’ wish fulfilment adventures, filled with fast cars, gorgeous women, sharp one-liners and fun Hollywood satire, made for excellent breezy comedy, but as the show locked itself into a rigid, repetitive formula, the drama of whether Vinnie Chase would bag another high-profile movie at the last minute soon lost its initial verve. How To Make It In America recaptures that energy and vigour perfectly, and though it still borrows Entourage’s ‘and then everything worked out before the credits roll’ formula, the rags-to-riches story of Ben and Cam means we start out on the ground floor of their story and their infectious journey to make it big proves much easier to invest in.
Bryan Greenberg, having spent much of his career being a bright spot in guilty pleasure soap dramas (October Road, One Tree Hill) or being wasted as the token boyfriend in forgettable rom-coms (Bride Wars, The Good Guy), finally gets a show that puts his natural charisma to perfect use. In a show that’s light on drama and propelled almost entirely by the chemistry of its cast, Greenberg’s laid-back charm is a perfect fit. Likewise, Victor Rasuk proves immediately likeable as Ben’s scene-stealing sidekick, and makes the perfect irresponsible foil to Greenberg’s straight man. And while the wider supporting cast is often underused (Shannyn Sossamon pops up only to vanish for most of the season), likeable appearances from Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kid Cudi make Ben and Cam’s adventures through the hustle and bustle of NYC even more fun.
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If there’s a weak link, it’s Lake Bell’s character. The show splits its time between Ben and Cam’s exploits, Cam’s parolee cousin Rene (the ever-fantastic Luis Gusman, who practically steals the show) as he juggles his criminal impulses and trying to build a legitimate business (by becoming spokesperson/promoter of energy drink Rasta Monsta), and Ben’s ex-girlfriend Rachel as she tries to make a success of her interior design company. While having a major female character does ensure that How To Make It dodges the criticism against Entourage being a sexist boy’s club and Bell is an incredibly gorgeous and rather likeable actress, her character just doesn’t hold interest nearly as well as the rest of the cast. It’s not that she’s bad, per se, and The Goonies alum Martha Plimpton perks the plot up as Rachel’s kooky ball-buster boss, but in an already painfully short show, the time spent focusing on Rachel feels like a comparatively dull distraction from the more infectious and enjoyable scenes with Ben, Cam and Rene.
It’s far from the deepest show, and is propelled almost entirely by raw energy, atmosphere and an incredibly likeable cast, but it still translates into 8 episodes of pure, light entertainment that’ll fly by in the blink of an eye. If you’re mourning the loss of Entourage, or miss that series’ initial infectious energy, then How To Make It In America is the perfect replacement.
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HBO Home Entertainment brings the first season of How To Make It In America to Blu-ray with a great A/V treatment. The HD transfer is crisp and stunningly detailed, while the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track captures the snappy banter, the hectic ambience of New York and the top-notch soundtrack beautifully.
As with Entourage: Season Seven, HBO have loaded each disc with all the bare essentials you’d want from an episodic show – ‘Previously On…’ recaps for every episode, previews of the current episode, chapter stops after the credits (though with a theme song this good, you likely won’t use them). Not just that, but there’s a solid selection of special features:
Actors Bryan Greenberg, Victor Rasuk and Lake Bell provide commentary for four episodes of the show. While there’s a little too much of the usual ‘this scene was fun, that actor is amazing’ stuff, the tracks are mostly funny and candid chats that entertain while providing some fun anecdotal insight and pointing out a few cameos you might not have recognised.
Creator Ian Edelman and executive producers Rob Weiss and Julian Farino provide commentary for the same four episodes as the actors. While they’re not as entertaining as the cast tracks, they’re still worth a listen for fans of the show.
A selection of solo interviews with random members of the crew, from the main cast to the costume designer and set photographer, focusing on how they got their start in their respective businesses. While some of it’s promo fluff, there’s some entertaining anecdotes and interesting insight.
A mockumentary focusing on the myth of Wilfredo Gomez, the show’s legendary pro-skater turned homeless nutjob.
Scenes cut from the show for pacing reasons. There’s more Rene and more Rachel scenes, none of which would’ve been vital to include, but there’s a fun scene with Ben getting caught checking out a girl’s butt on the street (purely due to his interest in her jeans).
How To Make It In America is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK now.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.