HBO scored long-running hits with a girls vs. boys series (“Sex and the City”) and then a boys against the girls sitcom (“Entourage’), so it would be nice if the cable network found another cash cow in a more sexually balanced comedy series, “How to Make It in America.”
The series written by Ian Edelman is set in contemporary New York where we follow a bunch of ambitious twentysomethings who are trying to succeed in the sort of “creative” fields that draw new dreamers into the city every year.
The title is something of a misnomer — it’s more about making it in Manhattan than in “America.”
Ben Epstein (Bryan Greenberg, above left) is trying to get into the street fashion business with a new line of jeans that he is creating with his pal Cam Calderon (Victor Rasuk, above right).
The two major female characters are Rachel Chapman (the delicious Lake Bell, below) who is working in interior design and Gingy Wu (Shannyn Sossaman), a young beauty hustling to get some attention for her little gallery on the Lower East Side.
“How to Make It in America” had an eight episode first season run last year — which has just been released on DVD — and it will start a second season on Oct. 2.
The only criticism I had of the season one DVD is that there are too few episodes — I wanted to spend more time with these funny and sexy and smart characters.
Like so many other shows that have been filmed in New York City over the past decade, “How to Make It in America” is stocked with fabulous character actors in supporting roles including Luis Guzman as Cam’s shady cousin who is trying to go legit with a new caffeine-spiked energy drink called “Rasta Monster.”
Martha Plimpton turns up in several episodes as Edie Weitz, Rachel’s ditsy boss. Plimpton brings an Eve Arden-like zest to this second banana role, scoring laughs every time she appears (sadly, the actress won’t be in season two because of a commitment to another series).
The show focuses as much on the characters’ career ambitions as it does on their romantic pursuits. Ben and Rachel are ex-es and he still carries a torch, but the sexual tension is kept under wraps for most of season one.
The combination of a very gifted cast with well-chosen New York locations makes the series very easy on the eyes, but it is the sharp and eccentric writing by Ian Edelman that keeps a viewer happily wondering if these starry-eyed hopefuls might make it in their chosen fields.
“How to Make It in America” mixes the downtown funkiness of “The Flight of the Conchords” with the high-energy pacing of “Bored to Death” — it’s another zeitgeist-capturing winner from HBO.