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5 Shows like How to Make it in America: Creative Struggles

Roxanne_Sancto_itcher_contributorDo you have dreams of making it big in your chosen field? Looking to become the next big fashion designer or a successful publicist? Then you’ve probably learned a lot from shows like ‘How to Make it in America’. But the ‘Lipstick Jungle’ gals and the ‘Unscripted’ actors may be able to offer you their take on how to make it big, too– no                            matter where you are. ~ Roxanne Sancto

F*%$ what the universe has planned. I spoke English as a second language, I dropped out of high school and I never doubted once that we weren’t going to make it.

You really have to applaud Cam’s (Victor Rasuk) spirit. His approach to making it in the fashion industry isn’t always legit, but he has exactly the kind of drive and spunk needed to stand out in a professional environment flooded with people believing themselves to be the next big thing.

His buddy and business partner Ben (Bryan Greenberg) is a tad more reserved and doubtful of Cam’s many eureka-moments and shows a conservative but equally ambitious attitude towards their endeavours.

If you’re currently in the process of setting up your own business or are chasing your dreams of becoming the coolest band since Simon & Garfunkel, TV series like ‘How to Make it in America’ will probably give you fresh motivation to succeed.

If you’ve been pining for more shows following ambitious protagonists in their entrepreneurial ventures or creative aspirations since the cancellation of HTMIIA, check out ‘Lipstick Jungle’ and ‘Unscripted’.


Shows Similar to ‘How to Make it in America’…

‘Unscripted’ (HBO, 2005)

I don’t envy anyone trying to break through in the world of acting, especially in Hollywood; but I sure admire their commitment. The characters in ‘Unscripted’ really drive home the relentless dedication needed to get as much as an audition in a town full of people on the same path as you.

The show follows Bryan Greenberg, Jennifer Hall and Krista Allen as they are rejected audition after audition, objectified for their looks or lack thereof, and constantly having to watch their backs for envious colleagues and shady directors. But occasionally their hard work does pay off and they find themselves remembering why they wanted to get into the business in the first place.

‘Unscripted’ relies heavily on improvisation from the main characters as well as the many stars making a guest appearance: Uma Thurman, Brad Pitt, Doug Liman, Keanu Reeves, Shia LaBeouf and many more.

Similarity Match: 85%
The fashion industry and the show biz are equally cut throat; the characters face similar struggles. However, ‘How to Make it in America’ is more optimistic than ‘Unscripted’.

‘Lipstick Jungle’ (NBC, 2008)

I can see why you may think  ‘Lipstick Jungle’ is just another ‘Sex in the City’, given that the novels the shows were based on were written by the same author, Candace Bushnell. But rather than focusing the majority of the storyline on the love lives of a group of best girlfriends, a big chunk of ‘Lipstick Jungle’ concentrates on the professional lives of the protagonists.

Nico (Kim Raver) and her best friends Victory (Lindsay Price) and Wendy (Brooke Shields) have all turned their creative passions into their profession. Victory is having a hard time re-launching her once successful fashion career; Nico’s high pressure job at Bonfire Magazine takes a toll on her marriage; Wendy struggles to balance her role as a film producer, mother and wife.

We do get to see a substantial bit of their personal/love lives as well but it’s not as centred on the sexual aspects of their relationships but more so their emotional well-being and the conflicts that may arise when personal and professional responsibilities clash.

Similarity Match: 60%
The characters on ‘How to Make it in America’ and ‘Lipstick Jungle’ both struggle with their professional lives but on very different levels. ‘Lipstick Jungle’ is aimed at middle-aged female professionals whereas ‘How to Make it in America’ targets a younger audience.

‘Garfunkel and Oates’ (IFC, 2014)

Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci have both appeared on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ separately, but really, they do their best work together. They first formed their folk comedy-duo when they decided to turn Lindhome’s short film ‘Imaginary Larry’ into a musical.

In 2011, they signed a deal with HBO releasing a webseries based on ‘Garfunkel and Oates’, which feels reminiscent of series like  ‘Fight of the Conchords’; or as Lindhome would describe it: “Glee with dick jokes”.

‘Garfunkel and Oates’ follows the many mishaps of Riki and Kate on their way to – what they hope to be – fame, in a goofy, musical manner.

Similarity Match: 50%
‘Garfunkel and Oates’ make the characters on ‘How to Make it in America’ look organised. But the characters on both shows have the right intentions at heart.


If You Like ‘How to Make it in America’, You Will Like…

The characters in series similar to ‘How to Make it in America’ and ‘Lipstick Jungle’ are ultimately striving for the same thing, though they have very different approaches.

Sometimes it’s not all too bad to follow the stories of characters who have had epiphanies on their endless search for success. Let me introduce you to Stuart and Andy.

‘Extras’ (BBC Two, 2005)

Andy (Ricky Gervais) is a talented actor who longs to do something special, but only ever lands roles as an extra. When his show ‘When the Whistle Blows’ is picked up by a popular channel, it is reduced to yet another sitcom format.

He may suddenly enjoy popularity, but at what price? It takes a stint in the Big Brother house for him to realize that sometimes, you have to make a choice between fame and professional satisfaction.

‘Extras’ features some stellar guest appearances by Ben Stiller and Samuel L. Jackson, but most notably, David Bowie.

Cam, Ben and Andy all know what it means to struggle on the way up. But Andy has seen the downsides of having made it.

‘Hello Ladies’ (HBO, 2013)

Stuart (Stephen Merchant) is an English guy in L.A. looking for love; more specifically, love from a model. Yes, he has incredibly high standards and seems to place more importance on looks rather than brains, even though he has absolutely no game whatsoever.

He goes to great lengths to meet ladies of his liking, but none of them ever stick around – Stuart is not exactly smooth. But he is relentless.

Career-wise Stuart seems pretty much set. But when it comes to meeting a woman, he shows the same dedication Cam and Ben have for their careers in fashion.


The Long Path to Success

We all experience inescapable lows and intoxicating highs on our journey to success. Similarly, to  ‘How to Make it in America’ and ‘Lipstick Jungle’ will make you feel less alone as you walk your own path towards realizing your dreams.

Let us know which one of these shows you found most inspirational – we’re always up for a good success story!

My name is Roxanne Sancto and I’ll be writing all things music, book and movie related for itcher mag. I also write for New Heroes & Pioneers’ upcoming Festival and Culture magazines, to be launched in the spring of 2014. I am the co-author of The Pink Boots and am currently working on two new novels. I love music, literature, cinema, crafting, yoga and animals.
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