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'The L.A. Complex': Remembering the best Canadian show about Hollywood

There’s a question I have come to dread more than any other: “Why are you not watching [insert a show that has an intense but small dedication]? Oh you HAVE to watch it.” So, please accept my apology because I am about to give you possible anxiety and convince you that you need to watch another show that you are not watching. Or have not watched, because it was canceled in 2012.

I came upon The L.A. Complex merely by chance. It’s nineteen-episode run aired on Much Music in Canada and on The CW in the U.S. I found it on Hulu during a day spent home sick in bed. The description given was something to affect of “young people who live in an apartment complex struggling to make it in Hollywood.” For the record, I am typically annoyed by shows about people in show business — it feels like the writers and creators are so deep in their own struggles in Hollywood that they can’t write about anything else — but I secretly crave it. As fandom has shown, the behind the scenes drama is as important as the fan worship of a show. The writers of The L.A. Complex seem to capitalize on this and exploits it to its best advantage.Spoilers follow for The L.A. Complex.

Take the aspiring comedy writer, Nick, (played by Joe Dinicol, a poor man’s James Franco), does the things that actual comedy writers do: bad open-mics, improv classes at the UCB theater, vying for a spot in a writer’s room for a basic cable talk show, and hearing brutal rejections from established comedians (played delightfully by by Paul F. Tompkins and Mary Lynn Rajskub as nastier versions of themselves.) He’s the right kind of dorky and awkward to demonstrate the writers’ first-hand knowledge of alternative comedy shows in L.A., not just their assumptions about such places.

The L.A. Complex

There’s Connor, who has a part on the show’s version of Grey’s Anatomy, and despite his rising star status is secretly depressed and self-doubting. His fragile sense of self is dragged through the excruciating scenarios in which he finds his acting coach was only being paid to be friendly to him, he agrees to be paid to act as a fading actresses’ fake boyfriend, and finally, in a plot the show would feel incomplete without, his self-doubt gets him dragged head-first into a Scientology-esque organization.

All of these stories could be handled with over-the-top campiness, but the show plays it all real and earnestly, which is a risk that pays off. Connor is both the leading ladies’ man and struggling, scared, insecure depressive. Jonathan Patrick Moore plays Connor quite excellently, forming a character who is acting like they are a confident leading man but who is actually tormented by anxiety and self-doubt. That’s some actor’s conservatory stuff right there.

Art cleverly imitates life for Jewel Staite, Canadian treasure and Firefly alumnus, who plays the bitter Raquel, only known for her short stint on a popular but canceled show (Teenage Wasteland, which is supposedly a Canadian My So-Called Life). She plays the show’s anti-hero, scheming and manipulating her way back to recognition. If we can learn to love the male anti-heroes of late, can’t we also root for a female anti-hero?

By far, the most intriguing plot is that of the mega-famous gangsta rapper Kaldrick King, coddled by his cadre of managers/producers, and his relationship with young male record label intern Tariq. At first, Tariq is humiliated as an intern, made to endure insults and demeaning requests from the producers. He is made Kaldrick’s personal driver, and after learning about the real Kaldrick, not his persona, starts a romantic and sexual relationship with him.

At its basis, a gay relationship between two black men, much less someone in the rap world, is something we rarely see (until Empire), but there’s clearly care taken to not make it an edgy for edgy’s sake plotline. King’s experience as a rapper does not rely on stereotypes that a lazier-written show may lean on. He struggles with relationships with his father, his childhood friends, and rival rappers who threaten to expose him. He is no angel, doing some especially despicable things, especially to Tariq, to hide his identity from the public. His character grapples with several identities, being a black man, a gay man, a rich man, and a public figure in a way that builds a believable character rather than using him to simply teach a lesson or depict a martyr for the cause.

The L.A. Complex

At the time, this plot was “ripped from the headlines”, as this was aired not long after Frank Ocean revealed his relationship with a man. The final scene of the nineteenth and last episode, Kaldrick, hoping to make amends with all he has hurt, pens a blog post stating “I am a gay man.”, hits send, and credits roll. Never has a series finale left me with such unresolved emotions. There was a chance for Kaldrick, and the fantastic Andra Fuller, the actor who plays him, to really provide one of the most interesting characters on television. (The actor is, no exaggeration, also one of the best-looking and talented actors on television — why has he not found success yet?)

As nuanced as the show is, it is still an “escapist” experience where, despite their suffering, all the characters look great doing it and always have someone to care about them. There are certainly some moments that require suspension of disbelief. For instance, there’s a band that performs in the apartment complex each night while various residents grill burgers and frolick in the pool. It’s never explained why they perform, who they are, and why all these people have all this time to party. I don’t care to get the answers, I just wish I were a part of this world. For a fateful 19 episodes in 2012, I was. It’s not too late for you either.

The L.A. Complex is currently streaming on Netflix.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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