Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The LA Complex - Review


It was a little bit like Melrose but without the drama queenery. It was a lot like other shows that have come and gone about people making it in show business.

The LA Complex began as a thought from Canada with primary locations spread in that country and LA. Six episodes became thirteen. Then the CW came on board to ensure airing in the US. Suddenly Season 2 was booked and away we go - or so it must have seemed.

But sadly the online campaign to find an audience may have dissipated viewers - who turned out in record low numbers to watch as the episodes rolled out. Season three was dropped by the production house and then the network and the show had enough warning to tie up all the lose ends.

It's a shame, because there was a show here. It wasn't made with a huge budget and it didn't sport any big names, but it had heart and soul. The characters were all good and the stories good enough through to excellent - but maybe that's why the Complex fell apart.

Am I being too tough? I don't think so. Look at Friday Night Lights - a show that won several reprieves when it was cut. There is a drama that never settled for anything less than excellent and maybe, just maybe had the complex pushed the weaker stories around for a moment longer or found more in those stories that built strongly and then faded - they may have won enough passionate supporters to start an 'uncancel' movement of their own.

The stories that were excellent were The King - or the gay rapper, Andra Fuller. From the shock of his first affair to the poignant final letter to his father that was posted online for his fans - just good storytelling and really nicely acted on all fronts with special mention to his season one lover - Benjamin Charles Watson.

The sweet love story of Nick and April, Joe Dinicol and Georgina Riley, that blossomed as they captured young lovers perfectly and gave me the first believable 'comics trying to make it on screen' that I've ever thought were real. Again great performances.

Connor Lake, Jonathan Patrick Moore, an actor I wrote many a script for in Australia, who played the actor who had made it in a Grey's Anatomy styled series within the series - who had three stories throughout two seasons and each one dropped off once told. This is, for me, where the show began to wobble. Serial drama tends to drop stories in, complete them and then leave and reset characters to begin the next story - but this isn't life. And the reason the gay rapper worked so well was that the first lover's story impacted the rest of his life.

Connor begins a basket case - an out of nowhere actor cast in the lead of a big budget network series - he has to carry the show and he fears he's not good enough. This theme runs through his whole arc for two seasons which is great - his terrible insecurities as  a result of being abandoned by his mother. It's an interesting story - but after one day of 'getting it right' on set - he goes on a bender and ends up with a 30 stitch gash on the side of his face. No problem for this production - it never even got a mention.

Then he burns down his apartment - a story that does get picked up and used well into season two, but at the time it felt more about giving us a big action cliffhanger than a genuine story and it certainly had few immediate consequences. Well when are there when you burn your house down? Connor then signs to be a publicity 'boyfriend' for a big female star on the wane. In a way he finds pseudo parents and instigates the reunion with the woman's ex - it's a nice story. But it comes to an abrupt end... quick - what do we do with Connor now? Let's have him get sucked into scientology - and call it by a slightly different name so we don't get sued. That in itself is a distracting choice - but to be fair the story wasn't terrible and they avoided a hatchet job on the group - and I can even sniff out that a longer term arc was in play thet Connor's long lost sister - the girl who found him and then enticed him to get involved in the group - wasn't his sister at all - but that's just my hunch. If I'm right, the cancellation derailed those plans.

And finally Connor must avoid arson charges and he gets involved in a low budget indy film shoot with his friends. All these stories were never terrible - just a little fractured as far a Connor was concerned.

Similarly Raquel's arc - a washed up child star? maybe a young twenties star, who was slowly being choked to death and starved of opportunities - but also one of the most frustrating characters in the show. How many times did people tell her she would make a great villain? Call it a bitch, a con woman - any number of names for it and always she fought against - while manipulating, stealing, lying, cheating and in short - being a  great villain. She spent a lot of air time doing anything and everything she could to work - except listen. Maybe that's what the producers were going for - that actor who refuses to accept who they are and who tries to always be the hero or the lead - when being bad and disliked is a better choice. But this didn't seem to be what we were watching - but it would have been soooooo good. An actress desperate to be loved - who must choose work and fame and being hated, or no work, no fame and no longer being noticed. Shame - because they had that setup and the casting perfect.

Other stories worked as well - Abbey as the flighty Hollywood starlet who never quite catches on but had all the talent in the world and should have had her big break. gifted child actor Simon and his sister Beth - who ruins things for him by being overprotective - a great twist on the stage mum and of course, Alecia the gifted dancer who get pulled into porn by circumstance and desperation.

The LA complex had far more going for it than against. Actors, writers, producers and directors can very confidently stick this one on their resume and I am sure, over time, through re-runs and DVD/online sales, more people, like me, will watch both seasons and come away very happily entertained.

Why didn't it attract more support? Ironically - that was also the central theme of the show. In Hollywood, some get lucky and catch on. Others, with every reason to catch on and shine - just don't - and a year or two down the track - a whole new batch of fresh young things come along and steal the spotlight.

Or not...

Out of 10 - a really underrated 7.

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