TV review: Big dreams in 'The L.A. Complex'
Jewel Staite (standing, left to right), Chelan Simmons, Andra Fuller, Jonathan Patrick Moore and Cassie Steele; Joe Dinicol (sitting, left to right) and Benjamin Charles Watson. (CW / April 23, 2012)
Score one for the underdogs.
"The L.A. Complex" (8 p.m. April 24 then moves to 7 p.m. Wednesdays April 25, CW; 3 stars), which comes to The CW via our northern neighbors at CTV/MuchMusic, presents an affectionate and surprisingly insightful look at Hollywood hopefuls clawing to make careers in TV, music, comedy and dance. The six wannabes live in a dumpy apartment building ironically called the Deluxe. (Points here for the Lux not being "Melrose Place" perfect.)
The most successful of the group, Aussie actor Connor (Jonathan Patrick Moore), moves out--and supposedly up--in the first episode when the medical soap opera he's in gets picked up by a network.
"I haven't even done a guest spot, and now I'm a lead," he says, more nervous than excited.
"I hate you," replies Abby (Cassie Steele), a dead broke Canadian who keeps missing or screwing up her auditions.
Abby draws the ire of Raquel (Jewel Staite), another actress who had a taste of fame 10 years ago in a much-loved but short-lived series ("We had a bad time slot," she tells admirers repeatedly), but hasn't worked for two years. Raquel has a thing with Connor--until he spots the younger Abby. Raquel realizes it's just another part for which she's getting too old.
Connor's soon-to-be former roomie, struggling comic Nick (Joe Dinicol), can't get a laugh but does get slammed at an open-mic night by two pros (guest stars Mary Lynn Rajskub and Paul F. Tompkins as themselves). Dancer Alicia (Chelan Simmons) knows she's good enough to be Usher's backup dancer, but is practical enough to do another kind of dancing to pay the rent.
Would-be hip-hop producer Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson) works an internship at a rap label where his boss refuses to listen to his beats--until he impresses Kaldrick King (Andra Fuller), a rap superstar with a secret who is trying to stay relevant. (King doesn't live at the Luxe.)
A lot of this sounds cliche, for sure. The show does borrow from "Fame," "A Chorus Line" and other cautionary tales about big dreams. But creator Martin Gero ("Bored to Death") and producers Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn ("Degrassi") tweak the Hollywood stereotypes just enough to make this feel fresh and authentic. Their actors, as well, flesh out what could be broad characters with personality and honesty, creating a likeable group of underdogs.
"The L.A. Complex" revels in its dreamers, but its message is for anyone who has ever worked hard for something.
Watch the premiere below: