this past weekend, i decided to take advantage of my newly-acquired on demand capabilities & checked out the first four episodes of how to make it in america, hbo's newest series. the half-hour comedy-drama, which premiered back on valentine's day, is produced by most of the same dudes who produce entourage (including mark wahlberg) & it's basically a new york variation on the entourage concept. whereas with entourage you have a group of four dudes trying to make it in hollywood whilst occasionally partying their asses off, how to make it... features two dudes trying to make it in new york's fashion scene whilst occasionally partying their asses off.
as it is, the premise is sort of boring & the content's only slightly better. i have to say that after watching the first four episodes, i'm not all that impressed & if i wasn't a new yorker, i feel like i'd be even less so. like with bored to death, there's a lot of stuff going that's very nyc-specific & might not seem very interesting to folks who don't live here. here's what they've given us thus far:
episode #1 - pilot: in the pilot, we meet our heroes, ben (bryan greenberg), who works at barney's selling jeans & is still getting over a breakup and cam (victor rasuk), who doesn't have a job & lives with his grandma. with no job, he's constantly trying to hustle to make money, but when his cousin rene (luis guzmán) gets out of jail & is looking for them to pay back a loan (that they used to make failed "wilfredo gomez" branded skateboard decks), his hustle kicks into high gear. after a plan to sell a bunch of leather jackets that fell off the truck fails, they borrow money from ben's wall street, high school friend david (eddie kaye thomas) & pay rene back. immediately after doing so, ben, fed up with a life that's going nowhere, gets rene to lend them even more money so they can use a roll of denim they got with the leather jackets & start making jeans. along the way, we get a kid selling candy on the subway, a gallery opening where we meet rachel (ben's ex, played by lake bell) & a party with creative types where we meet ben & cam's friend domingo (kid cudi)...a smorgasbord of nyc clichés.
episode #2 - crisp: now that they have the idea to create the perfect pair of jeans, ben & cam start trying to turn their dream into reality. to start, whilst at a party at domingo's, they come up with a name for their jeans: "crisp nyc." from there, they start searching for a manufacturer. in their search, they cross paths with a famous fashion designer & get a meeting with him only to learn that they need to make a sample & get orders before getting a manufacturer. at the same time, rene's trying to get a business of his own started--pushing an energy drink he's bought the tri-state area rights to called "rasta-monsta." he even gets some nyc graffiti artist to paint a rasta-monsta truck for him because there's nothing more nyc than graffiti, right?
episode #3 - paper, denim + dollars: since they now know they have to make a sample of their jeans, ben & cam turn their attention toward finding a tailor. they find one willing to make a sample for them fairly quickly but need to come up with money to pay him. after a few failed attempts, cam raises the money by selling a bunch of the "wilfredo gomez" skateboard decks to a bunch of "park avenue kids," but only after he tells them that wilfredo gomez has gone crazy. in the episode, rene still struggles to get rasta-monsta off the ground & we meet rachel's boss edie (played by the amazing martha plimpton), a woman who, when rachel thinks about quitting on her after running into a college friend who's making a difference fighting the spread of AIDS in africa, consoles her with "any ambitious do-gooder with airfare can feel like they're making a difference in africa. it's africa!" anyway, she also loves smoking pot & kinda rules.
episode #4 - unhappy birthday: it's rachel's birthday & ben's forced to come to terms with the fact that it's the first birthday she's had in a while where he's not her boyfriend. when he finds out that she's having a birthday dinner that night, he decides to create a distraction for himself by finally coming through on a promise to get his wall street friend david into the world-famous avenue. shortly after, rachel invites ben to her birthday dinner & he considers cancelling his avenue plans, but in the end, decides to stick with them. at the club, david serves up one of the more ridiculous pickup lines known to man: "excuse me, i was just wondering what's your favorite charity? i know you models like all that charity stuff and i just thought maybe you could recommend one i could give some money to. it's just i've got too much for one guy." her response: "my favorite charity is 'losers from wall street who still think that anyone still cares about their money.'" oh snap!...no progress on the jeans front in this episode though.
like i said, so far it's been pretty meh. eddie kaye thomas & martha plimpton's characters are pretty interesting, but ben & cam aren't all that exciting & it's supposed to be their story. still, there are four more episodes left in the season, so i'm holding out hope that it'll get better. if nothing, i'll get to have a bunch more "hey, that's X nyc restaurant" or "hey that's X nyc neighborhood" moments. i suppose that's sort of cool, but it's definitely not enough to carry a series.
snack: strawberried peanut butter m&ms
drink: landmark vanilla bean brown ale
when i first settled in for my how to make it... mini-marathon, i tore into a bag of "limited edition" strawberried peanut butter m&ms. what confuses me is how they're considered "limited edition." they initially came out as a tie-in to transformers: revenge of the fallen when the film came out back in june 09 & the bag reads "transformers: revenge of the fallen...only in theaters." that's so not true. shit's been on dvd since last october. this leads me to believe that they have an extremely loose definition of the words "limited edition." since i've seen them in multiple bodegas over the past month or so, it appears as if they had enough of a supply to keep them on shelves nine months after their release. that's about as limited as the horizon or the universe or something.
they're about the same size as their peanut butter cousins, but instead of coming in a rainbow of colors, they only come in three--red, yellow & brown. on top of that, the yellow ones are covered with red speckles. not sure why, but they are. maybe it's to accent the artificial strawberry goodness? i'll hand it to the flavor technicians at mars, they've definitely come up with a taste akin to an artificial peanut butter & jelly sandwich. if that doesn't weird you out, there's a good chance that you'll enjoy them. my favorite part about them? since the transformer movies are TOTALLY EXTREME, they decided to go with "strawberried" instead of boring ol' "strawberry" when naming them. think "strawberried" isn't a word? think again. please allow me to use it in a sentence: i just strawberried all over your face. see? totally a word.
i decided to pair the questionable m&m's with a bottle of landmark vanilla bean brown ale. it's brewed up in buffalo by the flying bison brewing co. for the landmark beer co., a syracuse-based company that has what's quite possibly the worst spell-checked & proofed website known to man. it looks like they forgot they had a deadline to get the site up, threw it together in a half hour & haven't bothered to update it since then. according to their site, their "vanilla bean brown al is an english style brown ale brewed with100% pure madagascar vania bean." vania bean? never heard of it. on a related note, their i.p.a. has a "ditinctive flavor." i believe that means that the flavor is dual-colored, meaning that the beer has some sort of synesthesia-inducing property.
the vanilla bean brown ale doesn't have the same unbelievable sense-bridging characteristics as the i.p.a., but as a brown ale it's not all that bad. it's definitely drinkable. still, if you're looking for a yummy vanilla taste in your beer, you should probably pass on this one. it smells nice & there's a slight vanilla taste, but what's there is sweet & rather artificial tasting. personally, i preferred the atwater block vanilla java porter to the landmark. sure, it helped that i had the chocolate & peanut butter flavors in the m&m's to go along with the vanilla, but the landmark still solidified my feeling on vanilla beers: if given a choice between a beer with vanilla as the main ingredient & one without, i'm choosing the one without every time. more often than not, it's just too much. i'd rather get a better beer, suck on a werther's & call it a day.