April 25, 2012


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


THE LA COMPLEX:  Tuesdays 9PM on CW – If Nothing Else Is On…
By CW standards, THE LA COMPLEX is close to gritty realism, which is to say it’s a shade less glossy than 90210 and Gossip Girl.  Set in a downscale version of the kind of apartment building/motel familiar to anyone who watched the network’s failed reboot of Melrose Place (although shot largely in Canada, where the show is produced and financed), this is another tale of young showbiz hopefuls clustered in the City of Angels.

Our protagonist is the prototypical hopeful ingenue, Abby (Cassie Steele), who’s come to town from Toronto (have to justify those Canadian tax credits!) with the dream of becoming an acting/singing star.  We’ve seen Abby and her like innumerable times before, but in keeping with the tone of Complex, she’s a little more ragged here:  living in her car when we meet her, and liable to take Ecstasy and have unprotected sex after a bad audition.  (You can tell this is an overseas coproduction because nothing terrible happens to her as a result of these acts, other than some unconvenient nausea at a reading.  Also, she says a bad word that has to be drowned out by a soundtrack sound effect.)  A chance connection with aspiring stand-up comic Nick (Joe Dinicol) takes her to the Deluxe Suites, a dump clustered around a pool, where everyone wants to be a star and where, implausibly, bands show up to perform at parties.
Also at the Deluxe are Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson), who wants to be a rapper and currently pays his bills as a record studio gofer; Alicia (Chelan Simmons), a dancer whose day (or night) job is stripping; and Raquel (Jewel Staite), who was once on a cult TV series that didn’t have enough of a following (“it had a bad timeslot,” is her go-to line when it comes up) and now has to cope with being a tad too old for the parts she used to play.  The complex’s recent escapee is Connor (Jonathan Patrick Moore), a resident who’s gotten his big break on a new medical series and has actually been able to buy a house.
The LA Complex pilot, written and directed by series creator Martin Gero, has plenty of well-trod storylines.  When Tariq smuggles his own music to Drake as part of a delivery, of course it’s Tariq’s beats that Drake likes; as soon as we find out that Alicia is supposed to hear the result of an audition by 3PM, we know we’ll get the sequence of her anxiously watching the clock as the appointed time comes and goes to no avail.  Occasionally, though, the show is willing to accommodate some awkwardness that’s less slick.  Raquel doesn’t just get turned away at an audition for a part she’ll never get–she humiliates herself at length by trying to talk herself into a reading anyway.  Nick’s open-mike night at the Improv isn’t just a mess, he has to endure having Paul F. Tompkins and Mary-Lynn Rajskub ridicule him afterwards.  These scenes extend almost to the point of a recognizable reality.  Also, so far at least, the show isn’t indulging in the usual soapy plots of characters sleeping with and cheating on each other, or scheming to bring one or more of the others down.  
With the exception of Raquel and Staite, the characters and performances are all somewhat pat, at least at the outset, little more than a collection of eager ambitions (and Nick’s unfunny horn-rimmed schlemiel is already dangerously close to cartoonish).  If Complex is going to be more than a time-filler, they’ll have to be better developed.  Also, given the low-budget Canadian pedigree, we’ll see how the production values survive post-pilot.  Compared to the usual CW formula of fantasy fluff, though, Complex is potentially something a bit more interesting.  

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."