Can a show have an identity crisis before it’s even on air? HBO’s How To Make It In America debuts on February 14, not that you’d necessary know from its anemic promotion. There’s a reason for that–sources say that the show is casting around desperately for a marketing angle that will appeal both to kids living on the LES and the middle of the country. That’s a tall task. So what is How To Make It In America? Originally pitched as the East Coast version of Entourage, complete with executive production by Mark Wahlberg, the HBO show aimed to chronicle “two enterprising Brooklyn twenty-somethings who hustle their way through New York City, determined to make a name for themselves in New York’s competitive fashion scene.” But in New York, the douchbags are different, though the makers of this show evidently don’t know exactly how.
How to Make It in America follows two enterprising Brooklyn twentysomethings as they hustle their way through New York City, determined to achieve the American Dream. Trying to make a name for themselves in New York’s competitive fashion scene, Ben Epstein (Greenberg) and his friend and business partner Cam Calderon (Rasuk) use their street knowledge and connections to bring their ambitions to fruition. With the help of Cam’s cousin Rene (Guzman), who is trying to market his own high-energy drink, and their well-connected friend Domingo (“Kid Cudi”), the burgeoning entrepreneurs set out to make it big, encountering obstacles along the way that will require all their ingenuity to overcome.
Early previews (above) leaned on Brooklyn art warriors Japanther to provide the soundtrack. Smart look, though Japanther’s Pratt/ragged-pants roots are pretty much the polar opposite of the clean-cut FIT strivers the show is trying to sell. Ditto for the choice of emo rapper Kid Cudi as the third or forth lead on the show. Cudi’s a hipster but not of the New York variety–give or take a Charles Hamilton, New York doesn’t much go in for rappers in tight jeans and bright colors, let alone dudes who talk much about their feelings. Worse, though the middle of the country and the media in general are happy to tag Brooklyn with the brush of “cool”, it’s not really that accurate. BK has plenty of punks and noise-kids and starving artists, but hipsters? Entourage equivalent cool guys with good clothes and big ambitions, etc. etc. etc.? That’s still very much the provenance of Manhattan.
So this show is lost out of the gate, a fact friends of ours–who occasionally get called upon to provide downtown cred to various cultural projects in search of such a thing–more or less confirm: HBO is even now looking for a way into your heart that, two weeks before their show is set to debut, they have yet to find. Fashion! Energy drinks! Twentysomethings! Do you recognize your city yet?