Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pilot Review: How to Make It in America

How to Make It in America (HBO)
Premiered February 14 at 10pm

This show has been hailed as a very similar version of “Entourage,” which isn’t surprising because it comes from the same creative team. Looking at the two in comparison, the new show is an extremely unimpressive copy. It’s not as HBO’s hit series, which will begin its seventh season this summer, took time to develop and hone the relationship dynamic of its quartet. From its first installment, the interaction between the four buddies clearly demonstrated their lifelong friendship, and the show immediately found its signature cool tone. Yet it’s important to mention that HBO’s two most recent comedy series, “Hung” and “Bored to Death,” both had lackluster pilot and secondary episodes, and it wasn’t until the third episode that things really turned around and became quality shows. This one, however, pales in comparison to those two even with only its first episode. The main characters have yet to be ironed out, and this is very much a show in transition about people in transition. It favors fleeting flashbacks to fill in missing pieces of information rather than actual human conversations, and has no clear focal point. It doesn’t seem to be about anything in particular, and its all-encompassing title means that its subject matter could be excessively broad. The cast is disappointing at best, and with the exception of the two leads, it’s not apparent who will actually have a large part to play in the series as a whole. Bryan Greenberg, whose credits include “One Tree Hill” and “October Road,” seems remarkably uncomfortable in his own skin as main character Ben, and his costar Victor Rasuk seems to be picking up all of the slack. Rasuk, first seen five feet high and rising in director Peter Sollett’s short film and subsequent feature “Raising Victor Vargas,” is lazy, uninspired, overly chatty, and just generally self-involved. Supporting roles played by Eddie Kaye Thomas and Luis Guzman seem like poor fits for the actors since both characters are hardly comic enough. On the top of the disappointing cast, this show just doesn’t have much to offer, and there doesn’t seem to be any real appeal.

How will it work as a series? As I stated before, HBO shows recently have taken some time to find their footing, and therefore I won’t give up on this show just yet. If the path of these two characters and the importance of the supporting players can be properly ironed out in the coming episodes, this show may be able to prove itself as a worthwhile show. Many fans of “The Office” found “Parks and Recreation” unfunny at first, so perhaps this show might need a bit of time as well.
How long will it last? As a cable network, HBO puts much more faith in its shows than a broadcast network might, and therefore this show might find itself on the path to early renewal quite soon based purely on the goodwill that “Entourage” has inspired. I doubt it will have the lasting power of that show, but I think it may be subject to a premature renewal even if reviews aren’t strong.

Pilot grade: C

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