'How to Make It in America' is a success story

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "How to Make It in America"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO

REASON TO WATCH Billed as an East Coast version of "Entourage," because both shows share some executive producers. There are key differences, notably cast, locale and even vibe.

LI CONNECTION One of the executive producers is Rob Weiss, who's also an executive producer of "Entourage." A Baldwin native, Weiss and "Entourage" creator Doug Ellin went to Woodmere Academy together. Weiss' directorial debut was the 1993 feature film "Amongst Friends."

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ben Epstein (Bryan Greenberg) is a Fashion Institute of Technology dropout who doesn't necessarily have big dreams, but many dreams, all of them hazy and ill-formed. His good-natured, easygoing manner masks some basic insecurities, or as his former girlfriend Rachel (Lake Bell) scolds: "Don't do that thing where you compare yourself to everyone else in the world, and why you're not doing better."

Ben seems to have a keenly undeveloped sense of self-knowledge, and it's left to others to piece together his psyche. "I always thought you had talent," says a former professor. "Your follow-through wasn't there."

His good pal Cam (Victor Rasuk) has lousy follow-through, too, but lots of ideas - mostly petty schemes to make a quick buck. One idea has special merit: They buy a roll of high-quality denim, with plans to launch a jeans line. Hey, everyone buys expensive jeans (or at least in Ben's circle), but now comes the hard part - finding a designer, a cutter and, most of all, money.

Cam's cousin, former inmate-borderline thug Rene (Luis Guzmán), is one source. So is Ben's old schoolmate David (Eddie Kaye Thomas), a socially inept hedge-fund guy. Of course, they both want something in return.

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MY SAY Rare is the TV show that actually knows its way around Manhattan or the Bronx, and even rarer is the one that uses these spectacular locales as central characters. "How to Make It in America" does. You can almost smell the streets, and feel the thrum of their energy. In part, you root for these genial, hapless would-be garmentos, Cam and Ben, because they move so effortlessly up and down the spine of the great metropolis. They'll make it - you hope they do - because millions of others who came before them did as well.

BOTTOM LINE Pleasurable, amusing, well conceived and written, though perhaps just a little shy on character development (New York excepted). Give this one time - these guys feel like they're worth getting to know, and the show as well.

GRADE A-

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