Monday, October 17, 2011

HBO's How To Make It In America Season 1

I love premium network programming, HBO, Starz, Showtime and others have not only provided quality series programming, they are telling story that is worth watching, at least most of it. One new series, now entering Season 2 is How To Make It In America starring Bryan Greenberg as Ben Epstein, a young clothing designer who dreams of making it big, and his friend, Cameron ‘Cam’ Caldereon, played by Victor Rasuk, a street hustler who refuses to give up while looking for short-cuts. This well acted, well told series is one that many may have not heard of, but it is good enough to deserve an audience as it looks at the lives of those living in the rough and tough streets of New York, aspiring to make it in America.

One of the frequent criticisms of premium channel series is the use of nudity and sexual situations. While there are certainly sexual situations in this series, there is no nudity. I only mention that to illustrate the excellent story telling. The direction, editing, musical score and virtually everything else about How To Make It In America has its focus on story. This series recognizes the importance of quality attributes in all areas of filmmaking. The quality demonstrated here adds to the overall enjoyment of the program and draws the viewer in.

The development of character is something many television programs do because they have the time to do so, unfortunately, being able to develop characters does not mean they actually do it. In How To Make It In America we get to know the characters and care about them. The program develops the characters in such a way the viewer can likely relate to them and their experiences. We see the good and bad experiences of life exhibited not only in the primary characters but also in the supporting cast. One such character is Cam’s cousin Rene, played by one of my favorite character actors Luis Guzman. Rene has just been released from prison and on parole in the shows time-line. He has difficulty getting away from his old ways but he is challenged to do so. We see this not only in his character, but in others. We see various individuals working to make it in America. The development of character in not only the starring roles, but also the supporting roles helps make this program worth watching.

How To Make It In America follows the dreams of its characters who have lived in and grown up in tough communities. Each character has dreams that are hard to achieve. That doesn’t mean they don’t go after their dreams though. We see the importance of family, friends, and a self-determination that won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. In each character we see strengths that allow them to help out others, whether a friend or family member. The strengths and love portrayed are admirable and appreciated. They reminded me of what should occur in faith groups, but unfortunately often times don’t. We see a love and appreciation where each character is willing to sacrifice for others; even during the times where there may be sacrifices to pay as a result of standing up and caring. One of the things I also appreciated is the willingness of the characters to go after their dreams. So often it seems as if we live in a hopeless society, with little hope, yet, hope is exhibited here in a powerful way. It is the hope of a better future, a brighter tomorrow that often drives one to move forward. This series illustrates the importance of that concept called hope.

I loved this show! I had never heard of it until getting the DVD for review but I will make plans to follow up on it during season 2. One of the only negatives is that season 1 is only 8 episodes. I wanted more. There are also some very good special features on the DVD, among them a follow up on a character in the series, Wilfredo Gomez, based on the real life character of Javier Nunez, a New York Skating legend. While one may not realize the significance of the backdrop story centering on skateboarding in the series, I expect that to be developed more in season 2. The action and commentary on skateboarding in the special features will make this a worthwhile purchase for skating enthusiast. I suspect that most people who love good drama, with a little humor mixed in will appreciate this series produced in part by Mark Wahlberg. I know I did, it was like finding a buried jewel, and that is just what How To Make It In America is, a jewel of a series.

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