How to Make it in America

NYC does eat its young (the t-shirt logo above) except on HTMIIA where NYC eats cannabis tincture spray.

HTMIIA’s 2nd season has gone by in a blink. While we like it enough to write about it, some of it, for a city boy, is imminently despised. Let’s talk Domingo first.  Kid Cudi.  Wow. This guy plays a clown.  Maybe the show wanted a clown in which case then he’d be a fine clown indeed.  But we only like funny clowns and not the kind of clown Domingo is…a THC tincture spray making/selling, red jeans shorts wearing, friend’s girl fucking moron.  By the way, we just pulled up that track “All of the Lights” that he raps on, for fair measure, and we had to turn it off after 45 seconds and weren’t even able to get to Cudi’s rap because it’s about as bad a song as we’ve ever heard.  Word.

Tincture spray?  This is not Cali, Vancouver, or Amsterdam, and as big as we may think our weed scene is here, it simply isn’t as big as it is in places where cannabis is legal.  NY-made tincture made for mass production underground?  Please.  And Domigo’s got the spray bottles all whipped out with the artsy Rasta Monster labels.  Please give it up.  What a retarded storyline. The diehards are cringing.  Domingo is also the kind of punk that defies the guy code. That says it all.  Why did he do it (fuck Rachel)? Because he thinks his own shit is always more important.  It just happened?  That’s a cop out on both their parts.  Cam (Victor Rasuk) and Ben (Bryan Greenberg) should lose his number.

BTW, what kind of whore is Rachel (Played by Lake Bell, who did a nice guest spot on an episode of The League, which we just talked about yesterday in this space.)?  Bad instincts, bad judgment, bad friend, skank. Bad.  How does she leave a job like that in design with a boss that’s so cool, who is her friend, really her only girlfriend, who is giving her good advice, and throwing her nice swanky birthday dinners as well? How does Rachel not just quit but blow up her friend’s entire business?

Because she’s Rachel and her tits are beautiful and her pussy is “hot cakes”?  These things seem to give her license to do whatever, whenever.  Or else she is just too flighty to put her life together correctly and too unlikable for us to care.  And yet she’s giving Ben shit about his career, within the context of the back story and early episodes of Season 1, like only the King of England would be good enough for her.  At the end of the day though, she simply kisses off her career because of a bad romantic choice, runs away, then says fuck it, I’ll just become a magazine writer, like she’s all along been the embodiment of hot shit, this raw naked talent, and now she’d just channel her inner Tom Wolfe.  Yeah, but in the HTMIIA world of happy endings, that stupid article she wrote on that moron from Brooklyn (such bad casting with James Ransone as James Dean) that got her fired will be picked up by someone like the president of Random House who will find the piece accidentally and offer her a 3 book deal like she’s James Joyce.  Back to Rachel as a whore.  She obviously has fallen for Ziggy from The Wire even though she is fucking Domingo so that was justice when that jap got japped in the steam by a real Brooklyn girl and cracked her head.  But seriously, for her to fuck Domingo, a close friend of Ben, and then to target the Neanderthal kid, who Ben despises, is not just skeevy but also pathetic psychologically.

Speaking of whores, um, Gina Gershon.  She’s ancient and her skin looks like leather and she trapped Ben up similar to how Rachel got trapped up last season by the rich fag, by blurring romantic and career lines.  BTW, how did that guy think he could get away with making out with a dude while rolling in a club, right in front of his girl?  Anyway, we just had to ask.   Frankly, the similarities between Ben’s love life this season and Rachel’s last season reeks of deus ex machina.  For the laymen, that would be bad writing.  Lazy recycled plot lines with predictable outcomes.  And if that means that Rachel ends up on Ben’s doorstep, or vice versa, at the end of this week’s episode, entitled “What’s in a Name?”, then we’ll puke our guts up.  If anything is to be read into the show title then we may assume that Ben and Cam will let Yosi have the name Crisp, and then they will re-brand themselves and start a new line.  That would be a nice turn about, especially since we are so tired of the ‘we need money’ storylines, and think it would be fun to see the guys party like rock stars next year, while Domingo is off walking a French poodle.  Maybe Ben can find some young ass then too, like the kind he never ever should have turned down (especially not OUT OF TOWN ASS!).  Instead of going off to fuck one of those young blond buyers, he instead opts to go make faggy candlelit smooth smooth romance with an old married hag.  What an idiot.

But we like Ben.  He’s human.  Everybody gets schooled sometimes.  He is usually smarter than that, and was right to blow off Rachel, who turned out to be a megawhore and he is the creative talent behind Crisp. With all the neat ‘everything works out in the end’ nonsense that Mark Wahlberg has imported from Entourage, we see things working out rather well for him.

We love Luis Guzman who is perfect as Renee and his posse is also all quite good.  Of course we love Kappo (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and we would be very worried about him in Otisville if we thought he was actually going away, though we are quite certain things will work out for him too. Cam, Ben, Renee, and Kappo make this show, and the others, while bad, are at least tolerable.

Sure it’s all fantastical pastry puff bullshit at the end of the day where faggy weed dealers are handing out herb like nothing  in the big green cloud of smoke they call NYC–where in reality you may have to work 6 days a week for 10 yrs to catch a break, but where Ben and Cam can’t walk a block of city without running into the hottest designer that minute doing threads who is willing to toss them a bone without even sniffing the hint of a sample–but it has enough funny moments to tolerate its drawbacks.

It definitely is not actually how to make it in America, though the blueprint does seem like the plan for how to make it on HBO these days…the new HBO…which despite the drop off in creativity, numbers of and quality of shows, still manages to entertain us a lot of the time.

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Amy (Laura Dern) and Levi (Luke Wilson) survey Levi’s stash house (above).

We were very happy to see Bored to Death return for a 3rd season, and happier still to see it paired with a new show on Monday night, making for the only non Sunday HBO original programming since our beloved In Treatment went black.  HBO, having had to recognize the strides made by Showtime on Mondays, especially with heroine themed dramedies Tara and The Big C, seemed to go that route, tapping Laura Dern to co-create and star in Enlightened.

The Monday schedule however, even with a staple like BTD, hasn’t really gotten rolling.  We were not surprised when we heard that Enlightened was on the renewal bubble for a 2nd season, even though HBO usually announces renewals very early on when they are behind a show.  BTD has not been the lights out comedy hijinx we have come to know from it which could be part of the reason, along with a non traditional night, for Enlightened’s lukewarm and so far unimpressive numbers.  BTD, 1 of our favorites because of both the Brooklyn n the bud, has been a weaker strain this year, and the beauty of the show, the magical ensemble of the Jason Schwartzman-Zach Galafianakis-Ted Danson triumvirate seems more trite and forced this season.  The show has picked up in recent weeks with Jonathan’s visit to The Dick Cavett show, and was at its best all season Monday when Ray’s already complex love life took a bisexual turn.  The show has drawn on perhaps its all-time best moment, when Jonathan was made to snuggle in bed with his girlfriend’s boyfriend, the signature moment of last season.

We were of course glad to see Sarah Silverman on BTD in the role of friends counseling therapist and thought her funny, though her face has seen better days (sorry Sarah).  Hopefully she gets some more run in the role.  And hopefully the show gets back to basics.  In this case, that would be the bud.  We also understand Enlightened’s problems.  Truth be told, episodes 1 and 2 were very underwhelming.  We sat there waiting for things to happen that never did.  HBO’s audience, frankly, must not be used to the pace of this show, which is very slow.  HBO’s half hour format is usually sensory overload–so many sights (Entourage), so many jokes (Curb, Flight), so much drama (In Treatment).

Enlightened is practically no jokes, hardly any likable characters, and very slow plot machinations. Dern plays a woman fresh off a nervous breakdown and a stint at a mental health facility, who is grating, forcefully repetitive, and who seems to have none of the LA sensibilities or standard sensibilities of the others in her life, which upon further review, don’t seem so sensible, except for Levi (Luke Wilson), who takes drugs so he “doesn’t have to think all the time”.

Dern’s Amy Jellicoe has a mother (Diane Ladd) who is at best disinterested with her and at worst scared of her.  And she lives with her.  How depressing  and yet common is that?  She has an old set of coworkers she thought were friends who are obviously not and a new set of coworkers, a motley crew of company rejects stuck in the basement like her.  One of those coworkers is Jason Mantzoukas, our beloved Tim’s bad boy Dr. (“did you take a hurty poopy?”), who also plays Ruxin’s (Nick Kroll, also of Tim fame) hilariously inappropriate brother-in-law Raffi on The League (when sandwich dancing on the outside of a stripper in Vegas: “He has a lot of money and I have huge dick.  Let’s do this!”)  It would be difficult to make Mantzoukas not funny. Yet Enlightened practically has.

This is probably the most realistic show on HBO’s airwaves right now, the antithesis of shows like Entourage and How to Make It in America that always seem to end on a high note, in fantastical pastry puff worlds.  Enlightened would probably be the karmatic balance of Entourage for HBO.  If there’s any escape at all for the viewer, it could be that our lives are actually better than theirs.  Dern has a meaningless job and only the shell of her former career as some sort of corporate buyer.  She has only pretend friends who are pained at the sight of her.  She is abrasive and over zealous and a lot of the time you say ‘I can’t even like her.’  She forces her unrealistic therapy inspired ideas on the wrong people at the wrong times and places, and she clutches her new found belief system for dear life, as some in recovery tend to do.  You just wanna tell her to save it, not only because the ideas might be bad, but because the people around her are so filled with apathy.

Amy gets every flat tire, is caught in every rainstorm–figurative and literal–and has already chucked her self help bible in the trash.  So far though, she has treated every day like a new day, and she is back each morning at her toil anew.  So far.  We think that’s the point of it all.  Life in general.  Bad jobs and few real friends and inadequate partners and family members.  Bad cars and bad bosses and living arrangements in places where you can walk 10 miles without once encountering a soul that gets you.

But you have to keep going.  Should she stumble, foreshadowed by flashbacks of binge drinking and Levi’s ‘Mexican pharmacy’ it would only indicate that Amy is even more like us than we care to admit, annoying personality ticks and all.

This is a very smart show.  It’s one you may never enjoy, at least not in the usual sense.  Get into the misery.  If you give it a long enough look, a satori might be your eventual reward.

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