'How to Make it in America' has been canceled by HBO. I feel it's important to put that out there just to let people know, who might have been interested in getting into the series, that there will likely be no resolution to these characters and their stories. (Executive producer Mark Wahlberg has hinted that the show may return on another network, but there's nothing concrete yet.)
After writing my review of the first season I found out there were more fans of this show out there than I realized. People who liked it really liked it. They even went so far as to compare it to 'Entourage.' I, on the other hand, found the show bland and dull. The characters were too flat for my liking. The stories were too superficial. The dramatic moments lacked real drama, while the comedic moments lacked laughs. Most of the episodes felt underdone and lackadaisical. And for a show claiming to be about the fashion industry in New York there was very little in the way of actual fashion and designing going on.
So, did the second season improve where the first season fell flat? Not really. What bothers me the most about this season is the central theme to the story, which is: how many times can aspiring entrepreneurs Ben Epstein (Bryan Greenberg) and Cam Calderon (Victor Rasuk) personally sabotage their own plans for greatness? Every episode basically has the same formula. Cam and Ben are down in the dumps because they'll never figure out a way to make it big, an opportunity presents itself, then they do everything they possibly can to ruin said opportunity with classically dumb mistakes that you just have to shake your head at.
Ben and Cam are desperate to get their fashion line "Crisp" off the ground. They're selling a couple hoodies here and there but they want to make it big. Only competition is fierce and Ben finds that a rival fashion company called The Neanderthals are cornering the hip hoodie market in Manhattan. The label is all but pushing Ben and Cam out the door before they even enter. Stores will only carry one or two Crisp hoodies as opposed to a whole wardrobe of Neanderthal clothing. Things aren't going well.
To make matters more complicated Ben's awkward ex-girlfriend Rachel (Lake Bell) is back from her world travels, causing more aggravation in his life. Cam's cousin Rene (Luis Guzman) is still trying to get his energy drink franchise, Rasta Monsta, off the ground. Rene used to be a loan shark, however his desire to leave that criminal life behind has him reinventing his image as an energy drink magnate. This subplot is the funniest one in the show and the most interesting. Honestly, Ben and Cam's struggles to become famous designers isn't engaging at all.
'How to Make it in America' lacks the bubbly characters that made 'Entourage' such a treat even in its later seasons. Watching an episode of this is a breezy way to spend 30 minutes but you'll find that after its over it may be a little hard to recall what you just watched. Much of what happens here is fairly forgettable. Except for the ridiculous situations that Ben and Cam find themselves in whenever they're trying to self-sabotage their own hard work.
I can see why HBO put the kibosh on this show. It's just not memorable enough to be considered among the primo programming we've come to expect from the premium cable channel. It never felt like it had that famous HBO bite to it. It was forgettable in every way.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The second season of 'How to Make it in America' only has 8 half an hour episodes which are split up between two 50GB Blu-ray Discs. They come packaged in HBO's standard cardboard foldout packaging completely with sturdy outer cardboard slipcase. Inside there is an episode detailing episode titles, and the names of the respective writers and directors. It's labeled as being a Region A only release.
The second season's video presentation is pretty much identical to the first. The first season featured the striking clarity and consistency we've come to expect from HBO Blu-ray releases. This one is no different. The detail here is impressive to say the least. Facial details like Ben's three-day beard and Rachel's "hostile listening face" (one of the funnier moments of the season) are perfectly defined. The intricate and varied architecture of New York shines here. Tightly packed brickwork is free of aliasing. The stone textures of various buildings is easily discernible. Even the grime and grunge of New York's less tourist-y places is featured in impeccable detail.
If I had one complaint about the overall appearance of the show in HD it's that the low-light situations have a lack of depth. Shadows are a little flat, blacks offer less-than-stellar dimensionality. Facial and textual details often get lost in this low-light flatness whether the scene is set in a dim club or the darkened streets of New York at night.
If it weren't for the noisily bustling streets of the New York metropolis this would be a rather mundane audio presentation. However, the sounds of the Big Apple produce a lifelike and engaging ambient core throughout the season. As Ben and Cam walk down the street discussing their next scheme the rear channels are full of honking cars, chattering crowds, jackhammering construction crews, blaring police sirens, and just about every other noise you'd expect to hear in one of the world's most crowded cities. The rear channels are constantly alive with city commotion making the sound stage a wonderfully interactive environment for your ears.
Dialogue is always clear and easy to hear. The constant hip-hop music in the clubs and during the show's various parties, is about the only source of low-end bass. It isn't overwhelmingly resonant when it's called upon to perform but it's deeply rumbling all the same. I don't really have any complaints about the mix here, it's perfectly acceptable. The rear channels add a much needed boost to a show that's usually focused on one-on-one conversations.
'How to Make it in America' never really impressed me. It's comedic moments only ever garnered a few chuckles, most of them coming from Luis Guzman's overreactions to everything, while its dramatic moments never felt that they carried all that much weight to begin with. Ben and Cam are frustrating characters from the start. Their ability to get in their own way is beyond annoying. Watching them sabotage their own success at every turn is a tedious exercise. The second season isn't much better than the first season. It still has the same problems which are compounded by the fact that the show got canceled before the showrunners could guide the characters to their ultimate goals. This is for fans only.