Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'The L.A. Complex' Proves It's Not Just "Who You Know" but Who You Stalk in Los Angeles...


I was so proud of Raquel (Jewel Staite) for taking charge of her life in the pilot of The L.A. Complex and agreeing to take those dumb USC kids' script into her agents, and I was thrilled to see the show did not drop that story-- or that Raquel did not reneg on her word in just its third episode, "Who You Know." She is determined, and that is what I like to see. So many other women in her position would instead posture that she was quitting the business, because in actuality she wasn't getting offered the right roles-- or any roles. Raquel is fierce and steadfastly holding onto staying involved at all costs. Having her agent dump her was a wake-up call, but just like the "perfect" comeback script falling into her lap, this seemed just perfectly fortuitous, too. Sometimes you need to subscribe to the flaky parts of this industry and recognize the signs. There are reasons people are out of work for as long as they are if they're truly talented. Clearly her agents weren't championing her as hard as she has been for herself lately. Maybe they're too big for her; maybe they just don't believe in her ability. Personally, I don't really get that; agents make money when their clients do, so if it were me, I'd be shoving people like Raquel down everyone's throats, sending her out on eighty auditions just to guarantee one job. You know, like how Abby's (Cassie Steele) agent was ready and willing to take the downgrade in her own pay when "Hooker" became "Dead Hooker." Of course, there may not legitimately be eighty jobs right for her. And of course, this all may be why I'm not an agent. But I digress.

It's probably a good thing that The L.A. Complex isn't Melrose Place or Raquel would have pushed those screenwriters in the courtyard pool. It's a true testament to just how much an actor is being led around by her "team" that Raquel didn't think it would be necessary to get her deal with these kids in writing. She probably figured they weren't nearly connected enough to screw her, but still, hasn't her time in this industry taught her just how fickle people can be? It's why my alert was up with Gary (Rob Stewart) in AA. His story about never acting on his real dreams was touching and sad and exactly what these kids need to hear to realize how lucky, in a way, they actually have it. But still, he's newly into his recovery, so now is not the time for him to get involved in anything new, let alone risky. He needs to be wary of Raquel, but she needs to be wary of him, too. They may have both opened up to each other in ways they haven't with anyone else (look how far she came from the brave face walking into all those agent meetings), but there's still a deep ravine lingering. One that requires paperwork!

I honestly can't believe Nick (Joe Dinicol) was the voice of reason with her, though! But I am glad he wasn't such a "good guy" that he managed to talk her out of her AA networking. Such a perfect L.A. detail. It's moments like that that capture the essence of this ridiculous town, even when the beats that follow are much more outrageous, over the top, and yes, unrealistic. I don't love the comedy they're playing up with Abby's experiences on the job. No show would ever use a real actress in a body bag if you weren't going to see her face. It's a waste of expenses! Besides, her situation is really serious, and downplaying it may cushion the blow but doesn't do her or those who identify with her any favors. 

Let's go back to Nick for a minute, though. How painful was his first set? When he completely missed the funny part of "glass-blowing," you knew it was all downhill from there. I was really hoping the show would continue with the theme of him being a "hanger on" to Connor (Jonathan Patrick Moore) or even getting a PA gig on another set on the lot. This show needs a PA! That's everyone's first gig in town, and I'm sure the halls of The Lux are populated with them. They're probably just not pretty enough (too sleep deprived, not well fed enough) to have their stories told. 

Anyway, even the set that Nick considers actually going well seemed to be just a fluke. It was observational, which I guess makes it real, but it was such a rare experience and too specific from which to mine too much material. Unless he starts talking about how pathetic he is with regular girls, like Abby, he's still back to zero-- he's got nothing to say. How long until he realizes he's not cut out for this and tries his hand at more honest writing-- hopefully in script, not stand-up, form. Or maybe even as unconventional counsel to his friends; he has a good ear for those who need him. Maybe he should go back to school and be a therapist. This town is lousy with people, his BFF included, who could benefit from a good one of those. For now, though, Nick is best utilized as comic relief. The scene where he thought he had killed that girl was his best to date.

At this stage in the story, Connor worries me the most. He's clearly emotionally ill-equipped to handle this business-- success or not. If he's practically in tears, burning himself, filling the void with any remotely pretty girl who will look at him, and potentially self-medicating when he's where he set out to always be, what the hell could he have possibly been like on his climb to the top? I hope the little burst of confidence his acting coach gave him is enough to get him through-- at least temporarily. It would be a much darker show to watch him spiral in poverty, and I can see the tabloid headlines now; he's perfect for them. The "All contacts" text message was the saddest thing I have ever seen-- even more so than his teapot ritual. This kid is a beautiful mess.

I can't help but wonder if those pills Connor was trying to retrieve were actually prescribed for him-- if he actually needs them to regulate his system. His erratic behavior could imply that, or it could simply imply a detox from a substance he didn't need. It's a little hard to tell, considering we don't get to spend a whole lot of alone time with him, and we didn't spend any time with him when he was on the pills. I have to admit, I'm leaning toward the former assumption, though. It is certainly indicative of an individual in a bout of mania to stop taking his or her meds because he or she feels fine-- hell, better than fine-- and thinks they are no longer necessary.  

After such an emotional journey for Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson) and Kal (Andra Fuller) last week, it was a little upsetting to see them thrust into the background of this week's storyline. I know, I know, that's what happens when you have a strong ensemble; you have to make room for everyone. But Kal switching from hot to cold as quickly as he does is commentary from which I want to see more. The way he stiffened up and told Tariq to get out in the morning to the way he put on a front in the studio and pretended to hate the sample he had selected just the night before shows how disgusted he is within himself for reasons he really shouldn't be at all. Kal seems to hate himself for being gay, which isn't okay, but it's somewhat understandable, knowing the world in which he is immersed. I don't quite buy into the fact that he "has" to treat Tariq a certain way at work; there's a distinct line between not flirting or acting lovey-dovey and being abusive or overly demanding. Tariq may be too young to realize that right now, though, and that's just another layer to this already complicated relationship that makes it such "TV to talk about." 

The thing is, Kal didn't just treat Tariq badly at work; he did it in the morning, when they were still in his house, too. Maybe it was just because he broke a rule for this kid; maybe it was because there was a suspicious clunker parked in his driveway overnight; maybe he was falling for someone deeper than ever before and it truly scared him like he claimed, but his actions were still abusive. Tariq has a responsibility to stand up for himself and not allow that to continue.

There are moments where Kal's around Tariq that seem like he can genuinely see a light in all of his internal darkness, though. There are moments where it seems like Tariq is good for him, even if he's not good for Tariq. But just like Connor's struggles, you can't expect someone else to help you fix the problems that are within you; you have to be willing to do the work on yourself and to look inward and sort things out. Kal, nor Connor really, is in a position where that is an option yet. They both have people around them catering to their every unhealthy need right now, and that enabling is a problem. Tariq may be the closest one Kal has to pull him out of that darkness, to make him okay with who he is, but even if he does, there will be all new problems, namely from the industry that will undoubtedly feel like they were lied to about Kal's image. 

Admittedly, I don't really see why Kal is already so smitten with Tariq. The kid is nice, and all, but I really think it's just because Kal feels like he can't openly be himself, but he can't shut his sexuality off completely, either, so he'll take whatever, or whoever, is available. And Tariq is the only one that's an option for him right now. I suspect that may change, considering Tariq has already spilled the beans to Cassie. But then what? Kal goes back to keeping up a false image and never truly being happy? It really is lonely at the top, huh?

I hate to say 'Toldja!' ala Nikki Finke, but well, I did. I knew Ricky (Aaron Abrams) was too good to be true. But I love the light he helped shine on some of the backroom (no pun intended) deals in this business with his sex tape proposition. I still think my assumption would have been more unique, but I could not be happier it stays safely untouched for my own pitch. Still, I can't deny I'm envious of just how succinctly The L.A. Complex writers cut through the bullshit specifics and "way these things work" and got to the heart of Alicia (Chelan Simmons) asking Ricky why he wanted this. The success, or failure, of their tape, after all, completely hedges on their chemistry. If she feels he is being genuine with her, she's more inclined to agree (she already likes him). I hope he's not just a much better actor that the business has seemed to give him credit for, though; I hope he's not playing her, even if his manager is playing him a bit.

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