‘In this town fame has a price; try not to get a complex’.
The L.A. Complex is a Canadian drama charting the ups and downs of six twenty-something’s trying to make their mark in the entertainment industry. It’s a set-up that works surprisingly well, with the pilot surpassing my (admittedly low) expectations.
After a few aerial shots of Los Angeles, just to make clear this is L.A. (at least part of the time) we meet the series’ main players: Abby, Alicia, Raquel, Nick, Tariq, and Connor. The pilot does a good job of introducing us to these characters’ and their respective situations.
Abby (Cassie Steele) is an out of work actress (and Canadian illegal immigrant), who has spent the last six months trying to score a role. She’s just been evicted from her apartment and her boyfriend is pressuring her to return home. Her friend Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson) dreams of becoming a music producer. He spends his days fetching his boss’s (an actual music producer) meals and dry cleaning, while trying to climb the career ladder. Tariq lives at The Deluxe Suites (i.e. the Lux), a motel complex that is home to many other wannabe musicians, actors, and producers.
Tariq sends his friend and neighbour Nick (Joe Dinicol) to Abby’s rescue, after her car breaks down on route to an audition. A struggling comedian, Nick can’t help the hapless actress with her audition problems, but does find her a recently vacated room at the Lux. The room was home to Connor (Jonathon Patrick Moore), an actor who has just scored the lead on a new television show. It’s a position that has left Connor feeling a little out of his depth. Abby quickly connects with Connor and the two have a one-night stand.
Alicia (Chelan Simmons) is a dancer with about the same success rate with auditions as Abby. Her introduction, at one such audition, shows off two facets of her character. Clad in what essentially amounts to underwear, she bears more flesh than any other dancer in the room, as she confidently dances the routine. Her caring nature comes across as she takes care of a fellow dancer, sharing her water bottle and offering some helpful advice. We later get to see Alicia’s more vulnerable side as she deals with the dawning realisation she didn’t get a part from this audition.
Lastly, there’s Raquel (Firefly and Stargate Atlantis’s Jewel Staite). The slightly older member of the group, Raquel’s career seems to have stalled since the cancellation of her show Teenage Wastleand – ‘it was a bad time slot’. Raquel is the most interesting character of the pilot, much more so than protagonist Abby. She boasts the best introduction, ‘no, I’m not auditioning for the Mom role. I’m reading for Cindy’. Her discomfort and dismay at auditioning alongside younger actresses is wonderfully brought to life by Staite. This discomfort is on display in her first interaction with Abby, a fan who grew up watching Teenage Wasteland. The two are set up as romantic rivals for Connor, who’s shared a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with Raquel in the past.
The beginning of Abby and Alicia’s friendship leads Alicia to assist her new friend with her money woes. She introduces Abby to her night job – stripper. After sidestepping the cliché (well, aside from the entire premise of an actor trying to make it in L.A.) for most of the pilot, it’s disappointing that creator and writer Martin Gero chose this path for the two characters. Cliché aside, it’s probably not the best career move for someone seeking the Hollywood spotlight to pursue a job in the adult entertainment industry. Unless, of course, you’re Channing Tatum.
Towards the end of the pilot Raquel enters into a deal with two other Lux occupants; she’ll shop around their screenplay providing she gets the starring role. Of the group, Raquel’s story boasts the most potential for the series, as she navigates a world that has rejected her simply because she had the nerve to get older.
The characters’ (and cast) are a likable bunch, although I’m not sure Moore has the magnetism the role requires of him – the chemistry between Abby and Connor is more lukewarm than steamy.
While it doesn’t have the draw or originality of series like American Horror Story or Homeland, The L.A. Complex makes for enjoyable, if not religious, viewing.