Vicki Briganti – CBS 62 Writer / Producer / Editor
In L.A., The Trick Is To Stay
So I’m enjoying the beginning of the CW’s summer drama, The L.A. Complex. It already feels like the TV equivalent of the Broadway musical Rent. Rent meets Melrose Place meets Entourage.
The first five minutes of the pilot start with an explosion of music that warrants me lowering the sound on my computer. The opening song lyrics are: “You’re a zero. What’s your name? No one’s gonna ask.” I guess being a zero is still better than being less than zero.
The sentiment is appropriate for a show concept about six twenty-something dreamers who move to the City of Angels seeking fame and fortune. If not fame, at least a glimmer of hope they have some talent. If not fortune, at least a chance not to live in their cars.
We encounter Raquel, an aging actress competing with a room full of younger actresses. She tells the production assistant, “I’m not auditioning for the mom role.” Her years in Hollywood have taken a toll. She had some early success, but now she’s grown bitter, disillusioned, and desperate. And kinda mean and unstable.
Next up is Alicia, a dancer waiting for the call to tour with Usher. There’s Nick who thinks he’s a comedian. Tariq wants to be a rapper. Connor is an actor whose pilot got picked up. Hooray! He’s not a doctor, but he plays one on TV. Then, there’s Abby.
Abby is on her cell with her boyfriend who’s back in Toronto. He says, “We agreed on three months. You’ve been there six. It’s me or Los Angeles.” She has to call him back, though, because she’s climbing a fire escape to break the window to her former apartment from which she was evicted because she didn’t pay the rent. Rent.
Poor Abby. She’s late for an audition. Her landlord smashes the rear window of her car. Her car breaks down on the freeway. She has to live out of her car. “I don’t even care if I live out of my car as long as it gets me to auditions,” she says. With a failed audition and mounting financial pressures, she eventually considers giving up and moving back home.
As the pilot unfolds, we discover the characters are connected through the Deluxe Suites Motel. Melrose Place. The residents attend a huge pool party, complete with skinny-dipping, drugs, alcohol, BBQ, and a live band. A steamy rooftop scene and conversation creates very adult content. Entourage. Many story set-ups are stuffed into the pilot; the writers don’t waste a minute of their six-part series. Much like L.A. itself, it’s all about momentum.
TV To Talk About
What did I learn about young Hollywood from watching The L.A. Complex pilot? Trying to break into show business results in constant crisis. You’ll be broke, possibly homeless, and humiliated. You’ll lose the girl to a better looking, richer, more famous dude and/or get stuck in traffic on the way to your paying job at a coffee house or strip club.
Will this displaced cast of unknowns find a purpose? “If you’re talented, it isn’t a question of ‘if,’ it’s ‘when,’” says Connor. The keyword being “if.” Can you tolerate the rollercoaster ride required to pursue fame? The L.A. Complex portrays the journey as an exhausting, demoralizing, frustrating heartbreak. To avoid quitting and leaving, you need passion and stamina. You have to believe in yourself. As Abby notes, “You can give everything you have and it still might not be enough.” The trick is to stay.
These characteristics remind me of people in my theatre classes in college. Real people who moved to Manhattan and Los Angeles to be writers, singers, and actors. Some found success doing exactly what they loved. Some had to modify the dream. For almost all of them, progress took years and years. Victories came in bits and pieces, starts and stops.
Because of personal experiences I’ve had auditioning for acting roles, I’d say the pilot is a heavy dose of realism sprinkled with humor and drama. It makes me glad I never moved to N.Y. or L.A. I’m happy to live vicariously through these interesting TV characters, not having to audition for my job every day. I’m especially glad six twenty-something actors are members of the Screen Actors Guild and are lucky enough to work in six episodes. It’s a likable cast.
Are they likable enough for me to carve out time in my TV schedule for six weeks? Yes. I already set my recorder. I’m curious what decisions Abby will make next. I wonder if Nick can rewrite his stand-up act. I want to see if Raquel secures a green light on a movie script. The pilot sucked me into the crazy world of Hollywood. I’ll watch from a safe distance.
The L.A. Complex premieres Tuesday, April 24th from 9:00pm-10:00pm on CW50.