- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Spanish (Castilian) DTS 5.1, Spanish (Latin American) DTS 2.0
- Subtitles: English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish
- Region: A (B? C?)
- Rating: TV-MA
- Running Time: 266 Mins.
- Discs: 2 (2 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: HBO Home Entertainment
- Blu-ray Release Date: September 27, 2011
- List Price: $49.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
With Entourage taking a bow, HBO needs a good character-driven buddy show to fill the gap. As a native New Yorker, I nominate How to Make it in America. In its first season, this wholly East Coast NYC show captures the essence of the young, multicultural, bohemian lifestyle that is the pulse of the five boroughs. There’s less sunshine and glitz, more grit, hustle and guile in How to Make it in America than its aforementioned West Coast counterpart.
The story follows two twenty-something buddies from high school, Ben Epstein (Bryan Greenburg) and Cameron ‘Cam’ Calderon (Victor Rasuk), as they try to make a success of their lives in the hustle and bustle of New York City. Ben is a Fashion Institute drop-out who’s stuck working at Barney’s while his best friend Cam is just a streetwise guy who knows how to hustle to make a buck. Together, they hit upon a plan to use their contacts in the fashion and art world to try to make it big with their own line of designer jeans, which they shall call “Crisp.”
The always pleasurable to watch Lake Bell (No Strings Attached; Burning Palms) is cast as Ben’s on-again/off-again ex-girlfriend with a brand-new rich, successful boyfriend that sends the stressed out Ben into fits, while Luis Guzman (Old Dogs; The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) plays Cam’s ex-con cousin Rene whom the two friends find themselves indebted to. Guzman is the standout member of the cast, injected much-needed comic relief and charisma, stealing nearly every one of his scenes.
How to Make it in America is hardly without its faults, mind you. The show is very slow to pick up momentum over its eight half-hour episodes, failing to setup a solid chemistry between all the characters involved. Also, despite being shot on location in New York City and having an authentic feel from the beginning that most series claiming to be in New York can barely muster, How to Make it in America tries so hard to be hip and Manhattan chic that at times it lapses into a caricature of the New York bohemian lifestyle. From the opening scenes of the pilot as we see Cam hitching a ride on the back of a bicycle from a young Hasidic boy through the numerous late night drinking parties that turn into near orgies and the glamorous views of art galleries juxtaposed with the sidewalks of the Bronx, the show becomes over-the-top with “We’re cool young metro, stylin’ New Yorkers” allusions. Still, the potential is all there and the groundwork has been laid in this first season. Let’s see where the creators take us in Season 2 and if it is worth following.
The Big Apple is captured in nicely in a sharp and clean 35mm production that is rendered to Blu-ray in a typically strong transfer from HBO. I’d say that at times the picture perhaps looks a little on the dark side overall, as if it could just have its overall gamma brightened a tad, but outside of that there’s a nice layer of grain and little noise. Blacks aren’t quite as black as I normally like to see them, but flesh tones look natural and color reproduction is strong. Particularly outstanding are the neon lights of the bodegas at night.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix for How to Make it in America is delightful. If you’re a New Yorker, the little sounds of the the city streets will be very familiar to you and this mix captures them realistically, cleanly, and clearly. It also manages to open up and breath once in a while with some big hefty hip-hop bass tones and stereo imaging that stretches out like a rubber band. It’s smooth all around, with clean vocals that lay on top clearly to boot.
While there are eight audio commentaries in this package, there aren’t commentaries for each of the eight episodes, but double commentaries for four selected episodes, one being with the cast members and one with the producers and and creators. Outside of the commentaries there are a few deleted scenes and HD featurettes playing up the style and mystique of success in New York City.
- Audio Commentary on Episode 1 “Pilot” with Bryan Greenburg, Victor Rasuk, and Lake Bell
- Audio Commentary on Episode 1 “Pilot” with creator/executive producer Ian Edelman and executive producers Rob Weiss and Julian Farino
- Audio Commentary on Episode 4 “Unhappy Birthday” with Bryan Greenburg, Victor Rasuk, and Lake Bell
- Audio Commentary on Episode 4 “Unhappy Birthday” with creator/executive producer Ian Edelman and executive producers Rob Weiss and Julian Farino
- Audio Commentary on Episode 5 “Big in Japan” with Bryan Greenburg, Victor Rasuk, Lake Bell, and Luis Guzman
- Audio Commentary on Episode 5 “Big in Japan” with creator/executive producer Ian Edelman and executive producers Rob Weiss and Julian Farino
- Audio Commentary on Episode 8 “Never Say Die” with Bryan Greenburg, Victor Rasuk, Lake Bell and Luis Guzman
- Audio Commentary on Episode 8 “Never Say Die” with creator/executive producer Ian Edelman and executive producers Rob Weiss and Julian Farino
- The Get By: Making it on the Streets of NYC (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:18:38) – A look at the professional skateboarders who got their start skating the streets of New York City.
- The Legend of Wilfredo Gomez (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:09:47)
- Hustle Stories (1.78:1; 1080i/60):
- John Varvatos
- Eric Goldstein
- Kid Cudi
- Stacey Battat
- Lee Quinones
- The Cast
- Deleted Scenes (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:55)
The Definitive Word
An often hip and stylish buddy dramedy with loads of potential, How to Make it in America may very well be more timely that it once seemed given the sad state of the U.S. Economy as well as the gap being left by HBO’s other half-hour buddy dramedy Entourage. Though it has its flaws, this is one worth keeping an eye on.
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