The L.A. Complex





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Some people think that to make it big in the Los Angeles entertainment industry, you have to sell your soul.

Not true, CW tells us. Oh, you might have to sell your body and your decency and your self-respect and maybe your plasma. But your soul? Your agent hardly ever asks for that.

Welcome to The L.A. Complex, the place where dreams may not go to die, exactly, but are certainly hooked up to life support. It’s home to an assortment of wannabes and at least one has-been. There’s Abby, who left her home and boyfriend in Toronto to become an actress. There’s Tariq, a fledgling hip-hop producer. There’s Nick, a comedian who must overcome the fact he’s not very funny. There’s Alicia, a dancer who moonlights as another, less dressed sort of dancer. And there’s Raquel, a one-time teen star now losing roles to actresses barely out of puberty. Presiding over this motley bunch is Connor Lake, a rare actor who made it. Or, at least, he made a successful pilot.

The series plays on all the myths and stereotypes that have been built around L.A. for decades now: It’s beautiful and unforgiving, a land of opportunity and broken dreams. Every barista is a comedian, every stripper an actress and every pretty person a possible bedmate for the night.

At times it can offer moments of insight. But it mostly presents us with a divide: On one side sits its own ethos, and on the other, the social mores of much of America. While much has been made of the outrageous content and morals recently found in MTV’s short-lived Skins, little has surfaced about the lower-profile L.A. Complex. Here’s the truth though: The two shows differ only by degree. We see strippers and sexual encounters. And while some seem to want to be monogamous, such unions are, in this world, constantly in flux. Characters blithely take drugs.

Granted, these young adults are all of age, and that’s something. But they feel so foreign to me as to resemble visitors from the planet Vesiligus.

For a quick example we need look no further than the pilot: Connor and Abby sleep together shortly after they meet. That’s a crying shame, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s when they wake up that Vesiligus starts to rise in the south: both were too drunk and/or stoned to realize neither used protection, so they trot off to the local pharmacy to pick up, in Connor’s words, “one of those morning after things.” They buy it, and Connor asks whether he might be able to get a dozen. You know, for future use. As he leaves, he tells the pharmacist, “I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”

Abby takes the pill, which makes her throw up in the middle of an audition. This prompts the director to refer to what he calls an old showbiz saying: “When there’s vomit on the piano, it’s time to stop the audition.”

And maybe the TV series too.

Episode Reviews

LA-Complex: 5-1-2012

“Do Something”

The camera lingers on loads of women dressed as prostitutes or strippers, who sometimes take off their tops. (They’re shown from the back.) When Abby gives a private lap dance to a customer, the man touches her breast. She throws a drink in his face for misbehaving, but since the “establishment” allows touching, she’s booted to the street in her skimpy stripper costume.

Legendary rapper Kaldrick King—an ex-con and current drug hustler—takes Tariq to a strip club where King throws cash at two women writhing in front of them. (One is topless, shown from the back.) Later, the two men return to King’s place and begin kissing—a prelude, we must assume, to a sexual encounter.

We hear sexual come-ons and crude slang for various body parts. We see people drink shots and champagne. King admits to having several DUIs. And when a fan snaps a picture, he goes ballistic and hits him in the face. “He knows I’m violent,” King later explains to Tariq. “H‑‑‑, that’s what he loves about me. I just did him a favor.”

Characters say “a‑‑” and “h‑‑‑” three or four times each, “b‑‑ch” and “d‑‑n” twice each. Harsher profanities are “censored” by what sounds like a jet flying overhead. God’s name is misused several times.

LA-Complex: 4-24-2012

“Down in L.A.”

“It’s me or Los Angeles.” That’s what Abby’s long distance boyfriend finally tells her. And Abby picks … L.A. Never mind that the city hasn’t yet been very nice to her. We see her break into her own apartment (after being evicted) to steal her own stuff. We see her car get smashed up by her landlord. We see her take Ecstasy—given to her at a party by a girl who’s gone topless. We see her have sex with a stranger (Connor) on a rooftop. (They make out, strip off their clothes and wake up the next morning in their underwear.)

Then we see her realize they’ve just had unprotected sex.

“I thought you said you were on something!” Connor says. “Yeah!” Abby says. “Drugs!” So he buys her a Plan B pill, which she takes, and we see her throw up afterward.

Still desperate for cash and unable to get a “real” job (she’s working here illegally), she agrees to “work” with Alicia, who is a stripper. Alicia dances in her bra and panties, ripping off her top as guys hoot and holler.

It becomes clear that Connor is also maintaining a casual sexual relationship with Raquel. People get drunk and references are made to smoking joints. They lie. They mislead. They make vaguely racist remarks. They swear. (We hear “b‑‑ch” three or four times, and “p‑‑‑,” “h‑‑‑,” “a‑‑” and “d‑‑n” once each. God’s name is misused three times.)

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Paul Asay
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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