‘How to Make It in America’ – ‘I’m Good’: Big in Japan

“How to Make It in America” is back for a second season, and I have a quick review of the premiere, and thoughts on the series as a whole, coming up just as soon as I get into a proper men’s haberdashery…

When I panned the “Entourage” finale, some fans of that show argued that I just didn’t get it, that “Entourage” was always just a fun half hour about hanging out with these likable dudes, getting glimpses of LA and showbiz culture, seeing beautiful women, etc. And I get that. Not every HBO show has to be “The Wire” (or even “Dream On”), and I enjoy a good turn-off-your-brain show as much as the next guy. But I think “Entourage” rarely (especially in the later years) even made the effort to be a good example of that kind of show, and its sense of self-importance grew in inverse proportion to its quality as the show went along.

“How to Make It in America” is essentially the downscale New York version of “Entourage” – many of the same producers, a similar air of “everything’s gonna work out just fine,” and once Jerry Ferrara lost all that weight, Skinny Turtle became indistinguishable from Cam – but its lack of pretension, and the fact that Ben and Cam(*) were dealing with problems with genuine stakes (rather than Vince struggling to get CBS to order a TV-movie vanity project for Johnny Drama) made it a more pleasant viewing experience than “Entourage” had been for a long time. I still don’t know that it’s quite the ideal version of this kind of bros-will-be-bros(**) travelogue format (it could probably stand to be funnier in scenes not involving Luis Guzman), but it’s not an unpleasant way to spend a half hour late on a Sunday night.

(*) It’s either a mark of how disposable this show is, or else of how long HBO kept it off the air in between seasons, that I couldn’t remember a single character name when watching the premiere. I remembered most of how the first season ended (though I’d forgotten Ben hooked up with his new girlfriend), but names? Not so much. 

(**) The show also does a much better job of writing for its female characters than “Entourage” ever did. In between seasons, Martha Plimpton moved on to “Raising Hope,” but Lake Bell gets to play a three-dimensional person whose concerns extend well beyond whether she and Ben will ever hook back up.

The premiere allowed the guys to enjoy a taste of success and fun during their Japan trip, but not so much that it gave them any kind of cushion upon returning to New York. Ben’s dope-induced subway freak-out probably was funnier on the page than the way Bryan Greenberg played it, but I liked the way the pop-up shop experience ended as neither a huge success nor dismal failure. (And there’s a chance the gunshot incident might help give the guys a better “story” than the whole “Jewminican” thing.)

Again, nothing spectacular, but amiable enough. Maybe I’ll check back in towards the end of this season.

What did everybody else think?