Last Night's TV: How to Make It in America/Sky Atlantic
30 Rock/Comedy Central
Tim Marlow on Modern British Sculpture/Sky Arts 1

Those of you trapped outside the Sky Atlantic paywall are probably aware you're missing major dramas like Boardwalk Empire and Treme. But as you teach yourselves how to steal those shows from the internet, you should also make a note to download one more of the channel's acquisitions: the underhyped How to Make It in America, a half-hour comedy/drama by the creators of Entourage.

Its protagonists are Ben and Cam, two young New Yorkers chasing the American Dream in the midst of recession, a bit like the world's best-looking Apprentice contestants. Their skateboard design business has flopped, so when a roll of high-quality denim falls off the back of a lorry, they naturally decide to make jeans instead, with the intention of flogging them to the fashion victims of Williamsburg, or whichever New York district is coolest nowadays.

We're yet to learn whether they'll succeed. In the interim, however, they attend parties hosted by models in loft apartments, where Cam hooks up with models, and where Ben whines to models about his interior designer ex-girlfriend (who might as well be a model). And all the while, Grizzly Bear or some other very "now" band contribute quality mood music surely destined for a spin-off soundtrack CD.

Like Entourage, How to... is fantasy viewing for aspirational hipster twentysomethings. Yet unlike Entourage, the lifestyle it depicts seems almost within reach of the average chump (minus, perhaps, the models). This is especially galling for a newly minted thirtysomething such as myself, secure in the knowledge that I'll now never spend a portion of my twenties living in the 'Burg – or anywhere else in New York. Thus, I find How to... both compelling and disheartening.

Bryan Greenberg and Victor Rasuk (as Ben and Cam) make charming protagonists, and I'd happily watch a whole half-hour of Lake Bell (as the model-esque ex, Rachel), but the real star turns come from supporting players Eddie Kaye Thomas and Luis Guzmán. Thomas, known to twentysomethings – and early thirtysomethings – as "Shit-brick" from American Pie, plays a dorky financier who agrees to fund the pair's fashion line if they'll help him get into Manhattan's hottest nightclubs. Guzmá* steals every scene he's in as Cam's cousin Rene, an ex-con with his own ambitious business plans. Last night, he staged a hostile takeover of an energy-drink company called Rasta Monster.

Mark Wahlberg and his producing partners are behind both Entourage and How to..., which has, to my joy/chagrin, been granted a second series by HBO. They appear to have a monopoly on this deeply likeable "dramedy" genre. It's a rich seam that others ought to mine.

The live episode has now become such a familiar viewer-grabbing tactic that even EastEnders is in on the act. When a drama like ER stages a live studio broadcast, it ramps up the show's existing tension with the added possibility of flubbed lines. When a sitcom tries it, as the 30 Rock episode broadcast last night did, it's an excuse for a new set of hilarious in-jokes, one of which was, indeed, about the possibility of flubbed lines. As Alec Baldwin's acerbic TV exec Jack Donaghy observed, the wobbly sets and static camerawork made the whole thing feel a lot like "a Mexican soap opera".

The cast of 30 Rock are at a distinct advantage in experimenting with live telly, as most of them come via Saturday Night Live, the live TV sketch show that it parodies. Last night's celebrity guest stars – Jon Hamm of Mad Men and the ever-game Matt Damon – have experience as SNL guest hosts. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who appeared as Liz Lemon's better-looking imaginary self, is famous as Elaine from Seinfeld, one of the most successful studio sitcoms ever. Yet despite the relative ease with which the cast navigated their live half-hour ordeal, it was exhilarating to see such a modern, meta-comedy thrown back into the traditional, studio audience setting. Proof for aspiring gag-writers that the old ones may yet be the best.

Moving the medium forward by leaps and bounds, on the other hand, was Tim Marlow on Modern British Sculpture, the first programme in the critic's series to be shot and broadcast in 3D. The Sky press office was understandably reluctant to furnish me with the necessary equipment to watch it in 3D at short notice: 3D-ready TV, 3D-inclusive Sky subscription, not to mention 3D specs. So unless I'd persuaded a 3D-ready pub to switch from Sky Sports to Sky Arts 1 for the evening, I was always going to be left imagining the glories of that extra dimension. Without it, this televisual tour of the Royal Academy's Modern British Sculpture exhibition felt like losing the remote late at night during Open University, or one of those boring school trips with the art teacher who all the girls fancy.

Still, this was (I imagine) a fine use of 3D's possibilities. Like the live nationwide cinema "simulcasts" of the National Theatre's stage productions, it brought viewers closer to cultural experiences normally reserved for Londoners, or for those who can afford the train ticket: Jacob Epstein's alabaster Adam, Anthony Caro's Early One Morning, Damien Hirst's Let's Eat Outside Today. Of course, the cost of a train ticket pales in comparison to the price of the aforementioned 3D equipment, but I expect you'll soon be able to steal that from the internet, too.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015