I’m not going to say you shouldn’t be ashamed of yourself.
I am. I watched the first episode of The L.A. Complex on a whim and have hate-watched it ever since. It is my Smash, my latter seasons of Nip/Tuck. The L.A. Complex, starting up for Season 2 on The CW tonight, is a Canadian show built on cultural depravity and schadenfreude with characters so soapy and near-unlikable that the casual viewer has to laugh. “What is this show?” the viewer of Two and a Half Men might ask. “What are you watching? Let’s see what’s on FX.”
And, for all appearances, the show is really awful. The characters really are hateable, the situations are so outlandish that they’re like SNL parodies if SNL had any balls, and it’s all set in some fictional version of Los Angeles I’m pretty sure only exists in the minds of Canadians (not a Spanish-speaking person anywhere? Come on, son). But there’s something about it, isn’t there?
Even though Nick seems to bumble nervously through the stand-up comedy scene like if Hugh Grant were cast in Punchline, he also has equal turns of moral clarity and hamartia. We want hard-working Alicia to win but are far more interested by what she’ll do when she doesn’t—you know, like porn. And with so many other self-involved characters representing everything everyone hates about show business, watching them constantly have bottles broken into their faces, throw up during auditions, or just all-around suffer escalating consequences for a series of poor decisions is fun to watch. Am I right?
So, when you disappear for an hour every week to catch up with the kids living in the 'Luxe, and you've already exhausted the "washing your hair" line and you've run out of grandfathers whose funerals you can attend, you're going to have to come clean. Here are some ways to get your friends to understand what it is that you're watching.
If you're a Browncoat, this is the perfect time to play that card. As a Firefly fan, you're morally obligated to watch every series any cast member of that show has been on since. It's why you suffered through V. It's why you own every season of Castle. It's why you bought all those bland Subway sandwiches for Chuck. What's more, Jewel Staite also plays probably the most nuanced character on The L.A. Complex, an older actress (read: age 30) named Raquel who's trying to land a part in Hollywood that isn't a mom. But that doesn't really matter, does it? Your friends just have to hear you say "Firefly" and they know you will watch anything so you can mentally plan that Kaylee fan-fiction mash-up you've been knocking around.
It should be noted that this is a Canadian show set in Los Angeles. A sizable percentage of the characters are from Canada, trying to be stars in the United States. Part of Abby's backstory is that she's here illegally. So not only is this show about how Los Angeles takes advantage of people trying to "make it," it can be read as a story of the U.S. and its most globally prominent industry perverting the sweet, innocent maple leafs that happen to drift its way. Even though I say that everyone on the show is totally hateable, they can also be characterized as really sweet and naive but ready to sink down to the dirty pool Americans play in order to chase their dreams. Racquel is the only one that seems honestly hardened but she's also understandably jaded after being in LA for years. Dropping the word "geopolitical" will not only make you sound smart but will also distract from the fact that, yeah, Alicia just said, "What am I Amish? Of course I've had sex with a girl."
Tariq's story, a music studio intern from Montreal who gets romantically involved with an deeply closeted rap star named Kal, is twisted around some hardly touched-on topics on television, like "the down-low" and American machismo. Cal is frightening and their dramatically cresting and falling relationship (sometimes they go to a bed and breakfast, sometimes he beats Tariq's face until Tariq spits up blood) is far different from other portrayals of closeted males. Though, if I were involved with someone who had a history of violence against people looking at him the wrong way, I would shrink from telling all my friends that he's totally gay. I suppose Tariq finds solace in "the truth shall set you free." Sometimes, however, it's just your teeth that are set free. Along with Tariq's storyline is the general question of temporary poverty surrounding those trying to hack it in Hollywood. There was a point in Season 1 where Nick taught Abby how to eat in LA by stealing bottles from trashcans, turning them in for cash to buy bait, and then fishing off the Venice pier. So I'm saying that, sometimes, things get real. Oh, well, except for that thing Connor does instead of cutting where he pours kettles of hot water on his forearms. That's just weird.
Lots of people watch a lot of questionable shows. At least these characters perform original pieces and material. Although there's not a solid shining character on this show, there aren't any who ruin everything. There's no Ellis on this show. But if all your friends are into Mad Men and Breaking Bad, just remind them of the time when they were really into Dawson's Creek and Everwood. If they never liked those shows, try the "geopolitical" thing again. If that doesn't work, just move. It looks like you live on my Twitter feed which is rife with television academics and professional critics and and that's no place for someone that likes The LA Complex.
If all else fails, just fall back on what The CW does best: offer shows with people who are pleasing to the eye. People might judge you, but they can't blame you for watching for Alicia's stripping scenes or feeling heart flutters for Connor, the damaged pretty boy with an accent. Let's face it, Dr. Robert Chase isn't going to be around next year. This is your only opportunity to see a blond Australian in scrubs right now.
Hopefully, that should get your judge-y friends off your back. If not, don't worry: Oh Sit! starts up in August and they'll all be too compelled by a game show based on musical chairs to worry about what you're doing. And then you'll be able to enjoy your campy fare in peace. The last thing you need is someone telling you Racquel's surprise pregnancy is ridiculous. Like you don't already know.
Will you be tuning into The L.A. Complex tonight? If so, what draws you to the show?