Earlier this year, The CW began airing The L.A. Complex, a Canadian import from the creators of Degrassi: The Next Generation. The show centers around a group of ambitious twentysomethings trying to "make it" in the City of Angels, only to realize that achieving their Hollywood dreams means sacrificing more than they could have ever expected. The series, which received tragically low ratings for The CW, was picked up for a Season 2 and will begin airing new episodes on July 17. If you were in the vast majority of people not watching, you missed out on one of the better dramas on The CW to date (even though that's not saying much). With Season 2 just around the corner, here are the reasons why it's worth giving The L.A. Complex another shot.
Young, Pretty and Broke
While I'm aware of how ridiculous it is that 90210's Naomi Clark can charge a $2,000 pair of shoes as easily as a Starbucks coffee, I've gotten used to the way that these teen shows portray life in "La La Land." Unlike 90210, The L.A. Complex doesn't sugar coat L.A. or glamorize the lives of the people living within it. In The L.A. Complex, these Hollywood dreamers all live in The Lux, an ironically named run-down apartment complex that becomes a solace from the soul-crushing industry that they all so desperately want to break into. Unlike The CW reboot of Melrose Place, this series is smart enough to realize that a wedding videographer can't afford a $5,000 a month condo. The characters struggle to pay the rent on their shoeboxes and are grateful for the simple necessities, like windows that open and working showers. While it will probably terrify any wannabe actor heading out west, it's a realistic portrayal of what trust fund-less, unemployed twentysomethings can actually afford (umm, basically nothing) and it's refreshing change from our generation's wealth-worshipping TV.
We don't need another show about a bunch of ambitious hopefuls who end up getting everything that they want simply because they're talented and ever-so-hard-working (looking at you, Smash), and thankfully, the characters on The L.A. Complex know their abilities aren't not enough to break into the business. No one would accuse this bunch of having their acts together, and it's their flaws and personal issues that make these characters relatable.
Take struggling actress Abby (Cassie Steele, better known as Degrassi's own Manny Santos, who also made a pilgrimage to L.A. in pursuit of fame): She screws up her first big audition after she accidentally vomits on her casting director -- a side effect of the Morning-After Pill, which she took after having unprotected balcony sex while on ecstasy.
Australian actor Connor may be starring in a new doctor drama, but he's a total emotional wreck, coping with painful memories of a troubled childhood through binge drinking and self-injury (in one particularly intense scene, he boils hot water in a teapot and proceeds to pour it on himself -- before setting his brand new house on fire. Gotta love the damaged ones). Publicly he's not much better -- he shows up to work smashed, sleeps with his co-star, initiates bar fights with strangers, and basically does everything that keeps Star magazine in business.
But perhaps the worst person on the show is Raquel, the former star of a popular but short-lived teen series who is hungry for another shot at fame. Raquel is a master manipulator and probably falls somewhere on sociopath spectrum, which is just great fun for everyone. Going to AA meetings exclusively to "network" ("The first step to recovering from a fake problem is admitting you have a fake problem") is an indication that you should back away from Hollywood.
While the show is definitely not The Wire, it does have some seriously dark moments that make it stand out from other shows on The CW. The secret relationship between Kaldrick King, a famous Oakland rapper with a history of violent behavior, and Tariq, an intern at his music production company, brings an appreciated heaviness to the show. As man who built his career on violent, misogynistic rap lyrics, coming out as gay could ruin King's "tough guy" reputation... and yet he loves Tariq. Keeping this secret leads to tragic consequences, as when producers catch King and Tariq together, King violently beats Tariq until he is barely conscious.
While most shows are quick to demonize characters who exhibit dangerous behavior or dismiss homophobic attitudes as simple ignorance, The L.A. Complex explores these issues on a significantly deeper level. While Tariq is certainly a victim, King in many ways is as well. It's surprisingly thought-provoking and sad.
The Lighter Side
Though the show definitely illustrates the grittier side of the L.A., it's not all dark. There are some delightfully funny moments -- ones that are on purpose, mind you -- that balance the show. Many of these scenes involve Nick, the terrible stand-up comedian. Though his stand-up is painful, Nick is actually a pretty hysterical person on his own, and his best episodes are when he is paired with hook up/fellow comedian Sabrina -- their rapport over how casual their hook up is pretty fantastic ("Do you know how I know this is casual? I still have my shoes on").
Love Really Isn't in the Air
The L.A. Complex isn't devoid of romance, but it does take a backseat to developing individual storylines -- definitely a good decision for a show that emphasizes the importance of following ones dreams (what did Blair want to do with herself before she devoted it to being Chuck's other half?). While the whole King-Tariq drama is a major plot point on the first season, we don't necessarily root for them as a couple as much as we simply want them to get their emotional crap together. While the writers seem pretty intent on eventually turning Nick and Abby into a solidified "Nabby," the show is far better when the two of them are far apart, doing their own things. Thankfully, most of the time, that's what we see -- though I could do without another vomit-y audition.
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