Making It In America NYC
HBO’s new show How To Make It In America is enjoyable, albeit in an empty, glossy-shell-with-not-much-inside sort of way. As has been noted often about this show, it survives almost entirely on atmosphere, filling its brief, 24-minute pilot episode with constant, almost tic-like montages of the hipster’s NYC. And it’s undeniably attractive – gloriously grungy subway rides and superchic gallery openings, late night apartment parties filled with absinthe and coffee tables from the Salvation Army, men in their twenties nonchalantly leaning against a brick wall trying to hock knockoff leather jackets. Full of non-serifed American Apparel fonts and a general sense of the world as one’s cynical but amusing oyster, How To Make It In America is chockablock with a particular worldview.
In form and character content, it’s a clear descendant of HBO’s enormously successful but fading show Entourage. Its main characters are men, and its plots are fueled by bromance, ambition, and under-developed female characters who appear briefly as muses and then die out in the face of new, bold schemes. The pilot episode follows an Entourage formula almost exactly – one promising plan for money and fame has petered out, and now Ben and Cam are stuck floating from party to party and scrounging up cash to save themselves from a nasty loan shark. In the episode’s very final moments, inspiration strikes in the form of a bolt of vintage denim, and the two Peter Pans roll merrily off into the sunset, confident that tomorrow is the day they’ll strike it big. Perhaps more than anything else, it’s the show’s rhythm that feels eerily familiar. Even after watching only the first episode, it’s easy to see opportunity and failure rising and falling in predictable, unrealistic patterns, carefully maintaining an upward or downward trajectory without ever leaving the space of partially-realized potential.
However derivative it may be, for now at least, it looks and sounds fresh. Entourage taking place in the middle of a recession no longer makes sense, and a setting where cultural capital goes hand-in-hand with at least the appearance of struggling to make ends meet while wearing awesome second hand clothing feels much more current. The shows titles really say it all here – while Entourage can only exist in a place where some measure of success has already allowed an entourage to form, How To Make It In America is a process story, with all the bravado and doubt of someone who hasn’t made it yet. The title also implies the show’s central assumption: “making it” in America is a distinct and achievable possibility, but probably only if you’re a young, single man and your America is actually New York City.
I’ll probably keep watching, if only because I have a fairly high tolerance for attractive fluff. And this is about as attractive and fluffy as paging through a well-made Anthropologie catalogue. If, that is, it was Anthropologie for Men.