Executive produced by Mark Wahlberg, the man who shepherded the fairly popular Entourage, that other HBO series about a group of buds scheming their way through the unpredictable, turgid waters of a nearly impenetrable industry, How to Make It In America follows the lives of two twentysomething New Yorkers hustling their way to the top of the fashion world. Ben (Bryan Greenberg), a stilted artist/designer begrudgingly working at Barneys to make rent, is fed up with being the last guy in the room to succeed. Partnering up with his best bud, Cam (Victor Rasuk), the two hip kids impulsively venture into the fashion business to start their own stylish, upscale jeans line. With no detailed business plan in hand, or any true entrepreneurial experience, the pair have a long, rough road ahead in getting their well-intentioned but underthought line off the ground.
As a portrait of struggling Manhattanites, How to Make It effectively homes in on that hope-filled effervescence historically associated with the idealized American dream: Ben and Cam are practically bursting at the seams with aspirations and ambitious ideas, though completely lacking when it comes to practical, applicable knowledge and actual business models. Endowed with a handsome, fresh face, Greenberg manages to charm despite his character’s constant self-disappointment and pathetic bourgeoisie woes. Rasuk, on the other hand, comes off a bit on the irksome side, as his slimy, opportunistic character tries to worm his way through the most unnerving, awkward situations in order to get ahead. One scene finds Cam giving an impromptu speech at famed designer John Varvatos’s dinner party, managing to procure an invite to the designer’s studio the next day. Shannyn Sossamon, though, is refreshing as Ben’s advising, arty good friend, helping him to move on from a debilitating breakup.
Surprisingly, How to Make It proves more successful at capturing the fumbling nature of squandered, mid-20s potential than HBO’s tedious Jason Schwartzman vehicle Bored to Death. The show has a vitality that is ultimately more resonant, especially in these hard, job-losing times.