When “How to Make It in America” first hit the airwaves last year, audiences did nothing but complain. It was too “hip,” too unashamedly New York, too much like “Entourage.” They all ignored some key facts. New York is pretty awesome, and being too hip is usually better than the alternative. (See “Two and a Half Men” and “2 Broke Girls” on CBS — or better yet, “Work It” on ABC, coming midseason.) But at its core, the show’s theme wasn’t hipsterism, or east coast elitism or swear-y, tit-filled “Entourage” escapism. The show was about struggle — the struggle to do something and do it big. And as “How to Make It in America” starts its second season, it’s still staying true to that central spirit.

How to Make It in America

Season Two Premiere
Sundays at 10:30 p.m.
HBO


Last season, the show’s protagonists, Ben (Bryan Greenberg) and Cam (Victor Rasuk), took their denim line, Crisp NYC, to Japan after finally selling their first order to Japanese designer Haraki. It was a feel-good ending to a season that had equal triumphs and setbacks, giving the characters a taste of the success Hollywood always conjures for hardworking, likeable creatures of fiction.

But as its said on “the Sopranos,” the hustle never ends. After living large in Tokyo, the guys return to New York to find that they’ve still got a long way to go. While they’ve been gone, rival clothing line Neanderthal has sidestepped Crisp to become the next big thing in New York fashion. Crisp is still getting orders, but they’re floundering and in desperate need of a marketing push that’ll help them really break out. And so it’s back to square one for the heroes, as they continue their desperate journey to the top.

Like many dramedies these days, the duo’s escapades are less laugh-out-loud hilarious than light-hearted and fun. And when the show goes for side-splitting laughter, the overall execution stumbles. Ben, for example, takes a hit off a blunt and trips out hours later on the subway. His drug-induced musings on life, Crisp and another passenger’s fashion choices are far too realistic. The writers go for amusing humor, but instead, they get a scene featuring that wannabe stoner freshman who’s smoked for the first time at a party, and can’t handle his high.

The show’s a lot better when it sticks to its strengths, detailing each character’s path through a set of obstacles. It’s in this zone of entrepreneurial adversity that “How to Make It in America” really thrives — depicting the hectic, multifaceted lives of so many of the world’s creative types. Specify boundless enthusiasm, their mini-identity crises, their crises of confidence and above all, their ridiculous and, in some cases, ridiculously ambitious ideas all come together to form an intricate portrait of the young and quasi-accomplished. The show strives to be a living, breathing representation of a vibrant next generation, letting its audiences into the exciting world of the not-quite-famous-yet and giving us a window as they hatch their schemes, pull off crazy stunts and bond.

And thankfully, that’s what it is most of the time. As soon as their stoned-out journey on the subway concludes, it’s on to the next moment of opportunity for Ben and Cam, who head to their latest crazy grab at publicity — a pop-up-shop featuring an authentic Japanese fetish show. Like the duo’s ideas, the show isn’t perfect and doesn’t always work. Nevertheless, it’s a tenacious piece of art that always recovers, and recovers quickly. So stick around. And say what you want about the hipsters, but their music is pretty sick.

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