The LA Complex Is The Best Show You Aren’t Watching
By Alex Cranz
If you’ve heard anything about the Canadian/CW show The LA Complex it’s that its premiere and every episode since have ranked as the lowest ranking primetime network rankings for any show ever in the history of the Neilsen ratings.
Or maybe you heard that the CW is so in love with the show that even though basically four people in the US watch it they’re keeping it.
So such a show either has to be so bad it will live on in infamy as the worst or it has to be really frickin’ excellent.
I’m pleased to report that after a two-week investigation wherein I watched every episode and hummed with pleasure during every single scene that I can safely say it is the latter.
I won’t attempt to analyze exactly why people aren’t tuning in. Perhaps it’s the premise: about a bunch of Hollywood hopefuls living in a cheap hotel/apartment building and learning just how awful LA can be.
That’s a tried and dried premise that has rarely been tackled well and, when avoiding satire and embracing melodrama, usually comes off as self-satisfied, hackneyed and generally miserable to watch (so sorry my little brother, but basically Entourage). However LA Complex manages to avoid a lot of the tired tropes while looking at the more lively ones with a new, and distant eye.
Shot in Canada and LA and written by a bevy of former Degrassi writers to our poutine loving north this show isn’t cynical for the sake of cynicism. There’s a rosie-cheeked hope in the way each character breathlessly talks about their dreams. And those dreams aren’t necessarily shattered in a moment. Some characters do find themselves on the short end of the drama stick, but when their stories don’t work they’re written out or given new acting partners that take them and their stories in to better places. In the first season Joe Dinicol’s comedian, Nick, flounders as he’s stuck in a thankless love triangle and constantly being ripped apart for his lack of skills by Paul F Thompkins and Mary Lynn Rajskub (playing themselves). So they brought in a perfect female comedian to ruin his life and maybe make it better and definitely explore the behind the scenes sexism in professional comedy.
The cynicism that could easily have been heavy-handed and ruined his, and many other plots, is thankfully limited to only two characters: a jaded former television star played by Jewel Staite, and a closeted rapper portrayed by Andra Fuller. And they’re cynicism about the Hollywood machine isn’t rewarded. They aren’t the wise old hands who’ve built up their armor and found their success through cruelty, selfishness and manipulation. No they’re actively punished by the plot for their less than savory ways. In the six episode first season they’re sympathetic villains you eye warily while you marvel the actors outstanding performances.
In the second, currently airing, season, they’ve been beaten down and are slowly, but surely, building themselves back up. All the while anchoring the cast and (this isn’t hyperbole) playing two of the most fascinating characters on network or cable television. I’ve no doubt that each week when Fuller and Staite receive their scripts the kick their legs up and get their glee on because these are the kind of roles actors would kill for.
Including many of their fellow cast mates. Like the Australian self-harming hunk who can’t handle his newfound fame on a doctor show and keeps seeking out new families to make himself feel better, or the dim but talented girl who goes toe to toe with Alan Thicke (essentially playing his onscreen son Kirk Cameron) and sleeps with half the cast but is never denigrated for it because she’s too darn nice.
Through incestuous threesomes, weird Jocasta-complexes, very hot men making out and a behind the scenes look of the making of “Cactibear” I’ve been surprisingly gripped. I can’t look away and, indeed, find myself looking forward to each new episode. It’s just the right blend of comedy, melodrama and satire that’s been missing from my screen since season one Desperate Housewives. Wait. That would suggest they’re comparable. They aren’t. LA Complex is better hands down and currently available on Hulu. So instead of spending the next week and a half waiting for all the new shows to premiere take a break and catch up with the most beautiful group of emotionally stunted and kind of stupid young Canadians ever.
If only for the currently developing plot where Jewel Staite will probably have to take on the entire Church of Scientology (at one point she jokes that dianetics is a diarrhetic for the brain) to rescue her one true love. Yeah. It’s awesome.
When you’re done come back here and we’ll talk about all of that and also Kaldrick’s journey from abusive boyfriend to romantic hero. He’s basically the gay Heathcliffe.