Unmade in America

Published December 22, 2011

 

Niche shows can be a tricky sell for a long run. That HBO decided to mercy kill How to Make It in America yesterday with the same axe that claimed the head of Eddard Stark might not come as a surprise. Despite a killer theme song, cameos from John Varvatos and other New York personalities, and a small but faithful following amongst creative twentysomethings, the show limped through its second season with only a half-million U.S. viewers and inconsistent writing. At HBO, where ratings for programs such as Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones soar, this is just cause for dismissal.

Still, there was much good to be taken from the network’s Sunday night dramedy. As opposed to HBO’s other Mark Wahlberg-produced show, the long-running douchy-guys-make-good hit Entourage, How to Make It was grounded in the reality that achieving personal success is, indeed, a difficult task in today’s competitive world. Both Bryan Greenberg, essentially reprising his role from the underrated 2005 romantic comedy Prime, and the lovable but inadequate Victor Rasuk, lent a certain believability to their characters as they attempted to navigate the pitfalls of creative life in a city that makes habit of swallowing its own.

Yes, the pair also partied with pal Kid Cudi, jumped into bed with hotties the likes of Lake Bell and Nicole LaLiberte, and were on the receiving end of sometimes ridiculous good fortune in launching their fledgling clothing line. But where Vincent Chase roamed the streets of LA with seemingly no consequences to his actions, the residents of How to Make It at least acted as if they understood what was at stake if they failed.

In truth, we’re willing to accept the possibility that the show was cancelled simply because it wasn’t very good. We’ll even accept that audiences weren’t as receptive to How to Make It as they were Entourage, which floated in absurdity for eight seasons, because the latter offered thirty minutes of escapism that the former could not. But there’s something to be said for a show that tries and succeeds in capturing the feeling of youthful inspirations, trite as they can sometimes feel.