Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer TV's "Vacancy" Filled Now That 'The L.A. Complex' Returned!...

Tonight's TV Talk is back! Sort of. Since The CW has debuted the return of The L.A. Complex, I am debuting the return of my mini column. Because you all know just how many intense thoughts I have about the show!

Technically "Vacancy," the return of The L.A. Complex isn't the start of the second season but instead a continuation of the first, picking up just days where the sixth episode left off. But a lot can change in such a short amount of time-- for characters like Nick (Joe Dinicol), who miraculously got a studio meeting, as well as for the show itself. Now that The L.A. Complex has already hooked you with flashy and fast paced stories-- and now that the characters have struggled initially but for the most part find sweet spots in which to coast-- the show has slowed itself down to actually enjoy the ride on which it has embarked. Still, I couldn't help but find myself wanting more from "Vacancy"-- especially after the high expectations I built up in my mind from the explosive last episode.

Take Abby (Cassie Steele), for example. She had such a self-empowering "tell off" moment in an audition last we saw her, and yet this time, it's back to the old, demoralizing grind as she was told she was dressed like a prostitute in her newest audition (by Alan freakin' Thicke!). Rather than sticking up for the girls who can love Jesus (she was auditioning for a schmaltzier 7th Heaven, if you can imagine that!) but still love to be fashionable, too, she instead took a page from Raquel's (Jewel Staite) book and used guilt and lies to try to win over the crowd behind the casting table. After flubbing a line about a Bible verse, she told those in the room not to throw stones of judgement unless they were without sin. It made me want to throw the camera at her head. She may need the job, but she doesn't want it; she was laughing in the waiting room over the ridiculousness of the storylines. I'm all for watching a character struggle with taking roles just to keep the roof over her head, but honestly, if we're going to go down that road, it's a stronger statement to explore with Alicia (Chelan Simmons), who is making a bigger, bolder, harder to bounce back from statement with her career choices in the long run.

Yet, Alicia packed up her Mini Cooper and (presumably) moved up to the valley to dive deeper into the world of porn...

I don't know if it's because the very real development season is creeping around the corner, and I feel like once again it's going to offer a big fat goose egg for me so I'm bitter, but while watching this episode, I couldn't help but think that I wasn't rooting for the majority of these characters the same way as I was with the earlier episodes. It's one thing to see talent in someone and to want to nurture it, but it's another to watch those very talented people screw up on their own left and right and realize you don't think they deserve success. Not yet anyway. I'm sure personal experiences are coloring my particular shade of jade right now, but I can't help that. Nick should be able to help not even knowing what show he's interviewing for, though; Abby should help not flubbing her lines-- and then not even having the script handy to reference-- during an audition she really needs to get; Connor (Jonathan Patrick Moore) should be able to not need to get drunk to ignore every little thing-- whether good or bad-- that comes his way. They're all adults. In theory. But "Vacancy" proved that the state of arrested development that runs rampant in actors is much more the reality.

Surprisingly, it was Raquel who seemed to be the grown up this time around. Maybe motherhood is making her soft or maybe the fact that she is numerically older than the rest of these kids has finally caught up to her. But put her with Connor, who burned down his own house and blamed faulty wiring, only wants to get drunk so he doesn't have to face the image of his, well, perfect face on giant posters and billboards around town, and came thisclose to signing up for Scientology, and she's the normal, grounded one in the relationship. That speaks volumes about just how far Connor still has to go. I talked a lot about his damage in the last batch of reviews, but it is his insecurities that will surely do him in. I used to think Raquel was the most insecure one, but that simple exchange on Hollywood Boulevard regarding a "free personality test" proved that though she certainly has her moments, she certainly knows who she is and is happy with that person, even if she isn't happy with where that person has found herself in life. She's not the type you'd think would make a good mom, but she cared enough to turn down alcohol, so maybe she's thinking about keeping the kid after all. The show itself has already toyed with the idea of a younger presence by introducing the homeless kids who become literal overnight sensations by moving up from lookie-loos to extras to commercial star and "momager."

Additionally, Kal (Andra Fuller), though stone-faced as ever, also seemed to attempt to actually process everything. Sure, we don't know what he would have said if he found Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson) on his own, and sure, he may have just made excuses or leaned on his "image" and "fame" to skulk away from blame. But the fact that he can't hide anymore-- not completely, not from everyone is huge. I fully expected him to lash out, to rage, to hit someone else, when he realized that. Anger is a big part of the grieving process, and Lord knows he's been in denial long enough. But instead I hope he actually does the work that every single one of these characters needs to do but so far seem drastically unready to admit. I hope he starts soul-searching to figure out just what is most important to him in life, in love, in work. I hope he figures out what makes him most happy, as well as what truly makes him tick. Because until you acknowledge and sit with that, you can't make any other truly successful moves.

I have to say, I did not see Tariq moving back to Canada coming. I guess I had just assumed he was part of the core cast and if someone was going to go after the fall-out from his relationship with Kal (and let's face it, someone had to because there is no excuse for that kind of abusive situation to be forgiven and taken back!), it would be Kal. But I have to say, I'm glad it wasn't. I think his story is much more compelling, even if I think it will be a sad one all the way through. If his "team" paid off one person who was deeply enmeshed with him, it will be super easy to pay off these two drunk randoms. And that's such a sad thing to think about-- how alone Kal really is, above and beyond how he may feel. Considering that, it's not surprising he chose to take such a drastic action, but it also won't be surprising when said action is covered up as an accident. Covering up all of his very real problems is just a symptom of him hiding who he truly is. I thought he was making some progress-- or at least that Tariq was inspiring him to consider his options. I hope he doesn't give in and just build lie on top of lie this season, going so far as to hire a beard or anything, because that's just digging him deeper into a tragic role, and we already have that in Connor. 

Actually, I am seeing so many parallels between Kal and Connor in how much of a mess they each are these days! Both of those men have it all in everyone else's eyes, but to themselves, they are nothing, not nearly enough. No matter how angry I may get over the things they do, in the end I want to put them both to bed under a warm blanket, rubbing their backs, and telling them they're good enough. Because they are. They have so far to go to become fully formed men, but if they eventually get there, all of the terrible things they have overcome will make them great ones.

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