Puget Sound Radio / TV News / US Critic: 'New Showbiz Drama Needs More CanCon'
Posted by: mikedup, April 23, 2012, 3:48pm
'The L.A. Complex,' from somewhere else
New CW drama only hints that its characters are from Canada
By Tom Conroy TV Critic/Reviewer MediaLifeMagazine.com Apr 23, 2012
The L.A. Complex is being shown in Canada on the Much Music cable channel.
There's no shame in being Canadian, except maybe on American TV.
Premiering on The CW this Tuesday, April 24, at 9 p.m., "The L.A. Complex," a Canadian-produced drama about a mixed bag of young performers trying to make it in Hollywood, is a little cagey about the fact that most of the characters, if not all, are from north of the border.
But if the series has anything to be ashamed of, it's the way it panders to our taste for sexy, soapy melodrama. Viewers looking for fluffy escapist fun with an attractive, charismatic cast will be well satisfied and won't care where the show comes from.
The title seems to refer both to the psychological syndrome that makes people from all over the world seek fame in Los Angeles and to a run-down motel called the Deluxe Suites where most of the wannabes live. Picture a shabbier version of the complex in "Melrose Place," with wilder parties and what seems to be a house band playing frequently on a balcony overlooking the pool.
Raquel (Jewel Staite) is an actress who hasn't been able to follow up on the success of a series she starred in more than a decade ago. Connor (Jonathan Patrick Moore), a friend of Raquel's with occasional benefits, is about to move into his own house after landing a role in a medical drama that may be beyond his acting skills.
Abby (Cassie Steele), an inexperienced actress, winds up at the motel after skipping out on her last landlord. She shares a suite with Nick (Joe Dinico), who is ineffectual both as a stand-up comic and as a ladies' man.
Alicia (Chelan Simmons) is trying to make it as a dancer, while Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson), is working as an intern for a hip-hop producer. Both of them have something to hide.
Most of the action conforms to the usual TV portrayal of life in the lower echelons of show business. Abby and Alicia are frustrated by the audition process; Raquel finds herself competing with younger actresses; Nick flops horribly at open-mike nights; and Tariq spends long days doing menial tasks.
But the show occasionally finds a fresh take. One character takes ecstasy, has unprotected sex and goes to work in a strip club, all without serious consequences or guilt. When Raquel goes to an audition and finds that her former producer is casting the role of a white character's best friend with a black woman, she says that only happens in TV and then asks a roomful of black actresses how many of them have a white best friend.
Each of the three episodes provided for review has at least one big twist that viewers will enjoy even if they saw it coming. Alicia forms a relationship with a former child star that keeps us guessing throughout.
The Canadian angle is subtler than it need be. Several characters say outright that they're from up north. Abby carries all her worldly possessions in a hockey bag, and Nick parties with a female stand-up who suggests they drink until they "black oat."
But the show could use a little more Canadian content. Coming to Hollywood via Montreal is different from coming there via Minneapolis. TV should stop pretending that people from both sides of the border are the same.