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Featured TV on DVD Review: The L.A. Complex: The Complete Series

August 13th, 2013

The L.A. Complex: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon

The L.A. Complex is a Canadian show that made its debut on the CW network on April 24th, 2012. It earned the lowest-ever ratings for a network drama series premiere; however, to be fair to the show, the CW is barely a network anymore. (If a show manages 1.0 in the ratings, it is seen as a miracle. I think only Vampire Diaries averaged above that tiny number.) On the other hand, the critics were actually very kind to the show. So were the critics right? Or was it wise for viewers to stay away?

The Show

As the name implies, The L.A. Complex takes place in L.A. ... at a complex. It focuses on a group of would-be celebrities trying to get their big break in Hollywood. Cassie Steele stars as Abby Vargas, a Canadian who moved to L.A. six months ago, but who hasn't been able to break into the industry. We quickly also meet Raquel Westbrook, who is an actress in her 30s, but still trying to get jobs as a teenager. Nick Wagner is a stand-up comic who has more talent as a barista than he does as a comic. Alicia Lowe is struggling to make it as a dancer, but at least she gets work ... as a stripper. Tariq Muhammad (Benjamin Charles Watson) is trying to break into the world of hip hop, but so far the closest he has come is being an intern with a rap producer, Dynasty (Dayo Ade). Finally there's the Australian actor, Connor Lake (Jonathan Patrick Moore), the most successful of the group. He's found his first big break playing a doctor on a TV drama.

These six wannabe famous people live at the The Deluxe Suites motel in Hollywood, which isn't deluxe but a dump. Over the first six episodes (a.k.a., Season One) there are a lot of storylines, involving both the professional lives of the characters and their interpersonal relationships. It's hard to discuss much without entering spoiler territory. (This is a big problem with soapy type shows.) But I will try to at least get into a bit of each of the main character's storylines.

The first day of the show, Connor is moving out of The Lux, because his pilot was picked up and he's moving into a house. This is great news for his career, but this success doesn't come without a cost. The loneliness of the new home and the pressures of the job bring up some childhood trauma. His move is great news for Abby, who was rendered homeless for not paying her rent, but Nick convinces the owner to let her stay there without paying first and last months' rent. (On a side note, her old landlord attacked her with a hockey stick. I would have pressed charges and sued. If someone doesn't pay their rent, you can't take their stuff. That's called stealing. Merely holding a hockey stick in a threatening fashion is assault; actually breaking the back window of a car is a serious crime.) On the other hand, Raquel is pissed, because they are dating, sort of, and he didn't use his new position to get her a job, and frankly, she's desperate for a job. A couple of people who live at The Lux wrote a script and gave it to her, and it is good. So she tries to get it made into a movie, with her as the star. Nick's career is also going nowhere. It's so bad he's heckled after his set by Mary Lynn Rajskub and Paul F. Tompkins goes so far as to bluntly tell him to quit. Tariq gets a break at work, first when he sneaks one of his beats to Drake, and Drake liked it. Doing this could have gotten him fired, but instead it gets him a chance to work with Kaldrick King (Andra Fuller) an up-and-coming Gangster rapper. When they do work together, there's a connection, both professionally and personally; however, being a gangster rapper isn't the best career for an openly gay man, so the pair have to keep their relationship secret. Finally, Alicia is trying to get her career moving in the right direction, but a scandal may push her away from dancing and past stripping.

I can't say too much about season two, because not every regular character from season one returns as a regular in season two. Obviously saying who doesn't is a huge spoiler. I can't really give too much information on the ones who stay, otherwise I'm spoiling who leaves by process of elimination. I can say there were a couple of new characters added to the cast. Early in the first episode of the season, we see a commercial being shot in Winnipeg. Beth Pirelli (Dayle McLeod) is there were her younger brother, Simon Pirelli (Michael Levinson), and they are in desperate need of money. The commercial shoot goes well, so they follow the director from Winnipeg to Los Angeles so Simon can pursue an acting career. Kaldrick King, Tariq's "boyfriend" also becomes a regular member of the show, although after what happened in season one, I really don't care about him. He is a 100% unsympathetic character, at least in my eyes. Alicia gets an important job as a dancer. Nick's career as a stand-up comic doesn't die; in fact, he transitions into a comedy writer. He and Abby also move in together, which means Abby's personal and professional lives are looking up. (She has a part in a movie.) Raquel is still trying to get her movie made, but she's forced to take a regular job in the meantime. Connor's past really catches up to him when Charlotte (Tori Anderson), his long-lost sister arrives into his life. He didn't even know he had a sister, but considering how bad his childhood was, this is a mixed blessing.

So did I like The L.A. Complex? First of all, it is a soap opera and there's no way around that. Since I'm not a fan of the genre, I wasn't expecting I would love it. However, it was better than I thought it would be. First of all, the writing and acting was stronger than in most such shows. No one was a cliché; although admittedly there wasn't a lot of depth in the characters for the series premiere. There's a lot of people and personal relationships that were introduced right away it takes a bit for them to jell. Some of the characters never jelled for me. (I mentioned one example above.) While some of the storylines were a little too out there. (Scienetics?) I really like Jewel Staite, so I was happy to see her in another TV show. Sadly it didn't last long. But she wasn't the only great actor here.

The Extras

This is an Echo Bridge release, which usually means no extras. However, that is not the case here. There is an audio commentary track on the series premiere and finale. There are also 11 minutes of outtakes and six deleted scenes. That's not a huge amount of extras, but enough to be worth picking up, especially given the price.

The Verdict

The L.A. Complex is like Melrose Place, if it were more realistic, better written, better acted, etc. The Complete Series has a good price-per-minute and enough extras to lift it to a purchase.

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Filed under: Video Review, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chelan Simmons, Jewel Staite, Paul F. Tompkins, Joe Dinicol