How Jews Make It In America
The Semitic content of HBO’s newest series
Heeb’s mini-review of How To Make It In America notes the latent and explicit Judaism in the new HBO series. It starts with the main character, a striving, 20-something hipster named Ben Epstein (and played by Bryan Greenberg)—an alter ego, perhaps, of creator Ian Edelman?—and it goes all the way through his (even more explicitly Jewish) high school friend, an i-banker named David Kaplan, as well as the hasidic kids around Ben’s Wiliamsburg apartment.
(The show itself, which is about Ben and his friend Cam’s dreams of success in the fashion world, is alright. The story of aspirational young people trying to make it in the Big City never gets old. At the same time, lines referencing Blue Ribbon and a Condé Nast expense account make the whole thing a bit annoyingly name-drop-y.)
The most Jewish characters on the show, whom Heeb doesn’t mention, don’t appear until the fourth episode. (The second episode airs on HBO this Sunday night; I’ve seen the first four episodes, because I’m special that way.) Ben reluctantly heeds Cam’s request and goes to ask his parents for some money. Sure enough, his mother, a teacher, is hosting a few other members of the union in their homey Upper West Side apartment, and insists that her son stay a bit, you know, just to have a little nosh.
Ben then goes to Bookculture, the Morningside Heights bookstore which will forever be known as Labyrinth to past denizens of that neighborhood, to see his father. He is played by Richard Portnow, whom HBO fans may remember as Uncle Junior’s attorney. The scene between father and son—filmed on Labyrinth’s second floor—is pretty much as Jewy as it gets. If that’s your sort of thing.
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