In defense of “How to Make it in America”

“This is Crisp. This is our story right here. [...] Loyalty.” -Cam. 

It all starts with the season 2 premiere. That’s when you become a real fan of How to Make it in America. At least, that’s how it happened for me. The show had interested me right away, but I could never say that I loved it – until the season 2 premiere. Part of it is likely because Avicii’s Levels makes everything it touches that much better.

But that’s not all it is. In that episode, named I’m Good, Cam Calderon (played by Victor Rasuk) and Ben Epstein (played by Bryan Greenberg) have come back from a successful journey to Japan. The duo’s clothing line, CRISP, is well established, or well on its way at least. Back in New York, the duo has booked a “pop-shop” event. That, too, turns out to be successful, as 55 units of CRISP are bought. Fifty-five units isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing. Thus, Levels is playing at the end of the episode. 

How to Make it in America was short-lived, surviving only two seasons and 16 total episodes before being canned – short-lived and so, a failure. It played on HBO and the best way that I can describe it is as a cross betweenEntourage (minus the nudity) and Treme. It’s Entourage, because it tells the struggle of making it — whatever it might represent — in America. It’s Entourage, because it tells the story that every person dreams about — except that there’s no happy ending in this show. It’s the 21st century version of the American Dream, the one where you try very, very hard and where maybe everything works out. The motto of Entourage is that everything that can go wrong, won’t. Here, it’s that whatever can go wrong probably won’t but some things still might.

It’s Entourage, but it’s better than that. It’s Treme. It’s Treme, because some might think that it is boring. How to Make it in America doesn’t rely on a very extensive storyline. It’s like real life. Cam and Ben work hard, sometimes, at establishing a clothing line. When they don’t, they party or hang out with their friends — Ben’s ex-flame Rachel Chapman (played by Lake Bell), part-time pothead and part-time walker of dogs Domingo Brown (played by Kid Cudi), Cam’s cousin Rene Calderon (played by Luis Guzman), or hedgefund manager David ‘Kappo’ Kaplan (played by Eddie Kaye Thomas). It’s Treme, because nothing happens as the story unfolds. It’s Treme — it’s rich in culture, in this case that of underground New York City. How to Make it in America makes me want to party, smoke, drink, go to art and photo galleries and start my own clothing line — called, say, CBG —in the same way that Treme makes me want to live in New Orleans.

Ben and Cam are after theGet Rich or Die Tryin’scheme — but hopefully, get rich. And quickly. Ben and Cam want to make it, but they will not make it at any cost. They will make it on their own terms, and their own terms may change in order to make the most of every situation. In this world, the easy part is to come up with an idea – Ben and Cam have that. Now comes the tough part – trying to convince someone who doesn’t want to hear about them that their good idea indeed is a good one.

How to Make it in America is the bromance. It’s the story of today’s generation, where it doesn’t quite matter if you make it as much as whom you try to make it with. What’s the point of being a somebody if you have nobody with you? Ben and Cam have been friends forever, it seems, and believe in loyalty. That’s why they’ll make it, or that’s at least what they convince themselves of. There’s a time for growing up, but it doesn’t need to happen quite right now, or overnight. There’s still so much parties to attend, so many dreams to think through, so many meetings with pseudo-players to make the most of, so much weed to smoke and alcohol to drink, and so many girls to talk to. In the middle of all that, somewhere, is work. Ben and Cam don’t have a business plan for CRISP, and perhaps that’s why they believe that the clothing line can become a staple. How to Make it in America explains how Ben and Cam intend to bring their vision to life. They believe in growing up and owning their own business, but also in staying young and partying.

In the end, Ben and Cam’s story parallels that of the show creator, Ian Edelman. Ben and Cam and CRISP manage to make it. Sort of, exactly like the show itself. All the while, you watched. Maybe.