May 2, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.
Previously… on THE LA COMPLEX:   In a (literally) low-rent version of Melrose Place called the Deluxe Suites, 5 aspiring showbizzers struggle to get jobs and pay for their rooms.  The newcomer from Canada is fresh-faced actress Abby (Cassie Steele), who was led to the Deluxe by old friend and rapper/record studio gofer Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson).  Residents also include dancer/stripper Alicia (Chelan Simmons), hapless stand-up Nick (Joe Dinicol), and the more experienced–which means in TV casting terms, aging–Raquel (Jewel Staite), who’s seen ’em come and seen ’em go.  Meanwhile, Connor (Jonathan Patrick Moore), until recently an occupant at Deluxe, has landed a real network series job and now lives in a house, but still interacts with the rest of the group.

Episode 2:  LA COMPLEX, produced in Canada, has a softer feel for plotting than its melodramatic CW teammates (it also continues to show its off-shore roots with mildly vulgar language that has to be blurred and drowned out by sound effects).  In the show’s second hour, written by Co-Producer Aaron Abrams (also a featured actor in the episode) and directed by series creator Martin Gero, the major events wouldn’t have sufficed for a tease on 90210.  Both Abby and Raquel were up for the same guest star hooker role, and although Raquel did lie to Abby about heading off the lot afterwards because she wanted to pay a visit to Connor’s trailer (no dice, he prefers Abby, yet another blow to Raquel’s sense of fading youth), no one hatched elaborate schemes to ruin anyone’s life or career, making this sort of the un-Smash
The main characters mostly had separate plotlines this week.  Tariq spent the episode on a sort of audition day with a famous rapper who was hiding more than the fact that he’s now rich and no longer a man of the streets.  It seemed like the producers and/or actors miscalculated that the episode-ending punchline of this storyline would be much more of a surprise than it actually was.  Alicia made the acquaintance of an actor (think one of the Coreys) who’d been in a hit 20 years ago and now shows up at vodka-branded cocktail parties.  He (played by episode writer Abrams) covered for Alicia so she could duck out on her strip club’s champagne room and take an audition, but while he probably isn’t as good a guy as he seems to be, we have yet to find out what’s wrong with him.  The main link between characters was Nick, who served as Connor’s lighting double, got a lesson in male/female chemistry from the double for Connor’s co-star, and blew it miserably when he tried to use his new knowledge on Abby, currently his roommate because she can’t pay her own rent.  
The low-key quality that makes LA Complex somewhat appealing also keeps it less than riveting.  The show doesn’t have anything particularly incisive to say about show business or its characters, so when it fumbles one of its infrequent surprises (as in the Tariq storyline), it can seem meandering.  So far, Nick and Connor are weak characters, with Nick as a Woody Allen clone without the laughs (nothing good is likely to come from the idea of Abby moving platonically in with him while he pines for her), and Connor a flat all-purpose stud.  The women are carrying the show, but there’s isn’t anything much to them either, beyond the desire to land the next low-level job and nurture their dreams of fame and fortune. 
The ratings for LA Complex‘s premiere weren’t just low by CW standards–they would have been terrible for most cable networks.  CW would probably have been better off holding the low-budget show for after the regular season is over, when it could have been a decent time-waster against reruns.  As it is, the show is an OK but not very compelling way to fill an hour.
ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…
 PILOT + 1:  Decent Summer Viewing–But It’s Not Summer Yet 


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."