TITLE: HOW TO MAKE IT IN AMERICA - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (BLU-RAY DISC) (DVD)
Release Date: September 20, 2011 (HBO Home Entertainment)
Color / 2010
Packaging: Blu-ray Double-Disc Case
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Episodes: 8
Running Time: 240 minutes
Running Time of Features: approx. 70 min
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French; Spanish; Castillian Spanish
Subtitles and Captioning: English, Spanish, French, Castillian Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish Subtitles
Special Features: Commentaries; "The Get By: Making it on the Streets of NYC" featurette; "The Legend of Wilfredo Gomez" featurette; "Hustle Stories" featurette; Deleted Scenes
Ben (Bryan Greenberg) and Cam (Victor Rasuk) are determined to make it in America in How to Make it in America - The Complete First Season! The HBO comedy-drama from the executive producers of the recently ended HBO series Entourage is a little bit of Entourage, but set in New York City and focused on the fashion industry. Ben and Cam, though, don't have the connections and are on their own to try to make a splash in the fashion scene. But the battle to get there isn't a straight and narrow path for the twenty-somethings, and it is going to take a lot of hustling to reach those goals. Now, you can enjoy all eight episodes of the premiere season of the HBO series on Blu-ray and DVD (our review will focus on the Blu-ray release).
The series begins with the "Pilot" episode, where Ben and Cam begin a leather jacket hustle on the streets of New York City, but the thousands that they invest in the plan goes sour almost instantly--setting up a recurring theme for the series. In "Crisp," Ben and Cam get a $3000 loan from Cam's recently-released-from-prison cousin Rene to buy some hot (aka stolen) denim, but that goes sour when they are unable to find a manufacturer to produce their latest idea in jeans. Rene is determined to get his "Rasta Monsta" drink to the big-time in "Paper, Denim + Dollars," and offers a buyout offer that his marketing partners had better not refuse. In "Unhappy Birthday," Ben's ex-girlfriend Rachel is celebrating her birthday, but it is Ben who is unhappy, because he isn't celebrating with her.
Ben and Cam may just have a buyer for their jeans in "Big in Japan," but all doesn't go so well when the design is far less than impressive. The guys are about to make it big in "Good Vintage," but they have a difficult quota that they are deeply concerned about meeting first. In "Keep on Truck'n," Ben and Cam agree to hand out samples of Rene's Rasta Monsta drink to pay off yet another loan, but when they leave early, it is about to cause some serious trouble. The season ends with "Never Say Die," where a confrontation is in the making between Rene and Cam after Cam suspects Rene of stealing the Rasta Monsta truck full of Cam and Ben's t-shirts.
The episodes all appear to be unedited, with runtimes as follows:
1. "Pilot" (28:25)
2. "Crisp" (25:07)
3. "Paper, Denim + Dollars" (26:03)
4. "Unhappy Birthday" (26:32)
5. "Big in Japan" (24:19)
6. "Good Vintage" (23:54)
7. "Keep on Truck'n" (26:41)
8. "Never Say Die" (29:03)
It amazes me that HBO is using a digipack for a new series that is debuting on home media for the first time ever in these days where Viva-packs have become the standard, but they indeed have used a digipack! On the cover, we have a cast photo, with the series title in large letters. On the back, we see Ben and Cam with a shopping cart with the big roll of denim, and a very brief description of the series. There is also a listing of the special features here, along with a few episode snapshots. Inside the slipcase, we have the digipack, which has a shot of the New York City skyline on the inside, and a listing of all of the episodes, along with episode snapshots and writing/directing credits on the outside. The disc artwork simply has the series logo on a light blue background. The Blu-ray set contains four episodes on each disc.
Menu Design and Navigation:
HBO really tends to shine on Blu-ray menus, and this set is no exception. On the main menu, we have a rotating view of the streets of New York City, with a series of videos in the middle of the screen. The closing theme music to the series plays in the background. On the main menu, there are options of Episodes, Languages, and Features. When you select Episodes, you get an option of Play All and Episodes. If you select Episodes, you get a menu on the left side of the screen that shows you each episode, one at a time, with a brief description, writing and directing credits, and an option to view the "previously on" and "preview" for the episode. You can also go to the episode commentaries from here, if the episode has commentaries. All eight episodes are listed on both discs, so if you select an episode that is on one of the other discs, you will be prompted to insert that disc. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.
Note that we did not receive a review copy of the DVD version, so we are unable to comment on the menus for that set, which will undoubtedly be different as DVDs are not capable of much of the techniques used on Blu-ray menus.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality of the episodes on the set is, as would be expected with Blu-ray, top-notch! I'm sure that I could nitpick on minor details if I wanted to, but I couldn't find any problems at all with the video and audio. Naturally, the episodes are all in their original aspect ratio, and the audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. As for the audio, there are more options here than anybody could imagine. Aside from the English track, we have French, Spanish, and Castilian Spanish. The subtitles get even more expansive, with subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Castilian Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish! Undoubtedly, this set is ready for a wide release in Europe. I have a feeling that
The set isn't exactly loaded with special features, but the ones that are here actually are worth watching. First, we start with the commentaries. The packaging proudly proclaims "8 audio commentaries" on the back, but that is a little misleading. There are eight commentaries, but you won't find them on every episode. In fact, only half of the episodes have commentaries, but each one has two separate commentary tracks. The episodes containing audio commentaries are "Pilot," "Unhappy Birthday," "Big in Japan," and "Never Say Die." The first commentary for each one features the actors from the series, including Bryan Greenberg, Victor Rasuk, Lake Bell, and Luis Guzman. The second track features commentary from the producers of the series, including Ian Edelman, Rob Weiss, and Justin Farino. As one would expect, the first track for each episode features a more actor-oriented view of the episode, while we get a more "behind-the-scenes" and production viewpoint on the second commentary track. I kind of like this, because it provides two different looks at each episode.
In "The Get By: Making it on the Streets of NYC" (18:39), we get to take a look at some actual skateboarders in New York City who have lives similar to what we see in Ben and Cam in the series, and how they survive and thrive in the city. It is interesting to see some real-life stories similar to the series.
"The Legend of Wilfredo Gomez" (9:42) brings us more stories from the same skateboarders in New York City, about the skater Wilfredo Gomez and how the mystery behind this man. The feature looks very serious and factual, but if you know the series well enough, you'll know that this is more of an inside joke. I believe that this was previously featured on HBO.com .
"Hustle Stories" (23:21) gives us a collection of interviews with the cast, crew, and characters of the series where they share with viewers their own struggles of, well, how they made it in America. It's a very nice feature to watch, and aside from the commentaries, it is the only special feature where we get to see opinions from the cast and crew.
In "Deleted Scenes" (5:43), we get to see exactly what it sounds like we'd see--a series of deleted scenes from various episodes of the first season. Honestly, I'm kind of disappointed at how short this special feature is, and would tend to think that there would be more deleted scenes, but perhaps I'm wrong.
Finally, although they don't consider it to be a special feature (I think it should be considered one), we have "previews" and "previously on" segments for each episode (except, of course, there is no "previously on" for the "Pilot" episode). The "preview" gives you a 30 second look into the episode, and "previously on" gives you a 45 second look at past clips that explains what happened leading up to the current episode, in case you skip an episode. I think it is great that HBO likes to include these on their sets.
I enjoy series like this, and I really feel like it fills the void that has just been left since Entourage finished its run. The series are two completely different series, of course, but in Entourage, you see much more of a sense of entitlement and power in Hollywood. I honestly feel like this is more interesting because it shows more "normal" people actually struggling (as opposed to Entourage, where the biggest struggle is getting a good role) in New York City. This series really captures a true "trendy New York City" feeling as well, which is something that you don't really see in comedy series so much these days. The series hasn't exactly been a hit so far, but the way I see it, it is just like Ben and Cam: struggling to make it in America. I'd encourage fans of Entourage to check this series out, though, and if you have HBO, you may want to check out some episodes on there as well. I was surprised at how quickly I got hooked into this series, and I fully enjoy it.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 2.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 09/19/11
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