When somebody mentions The L.A. Complex, chances are you think one of two things: “What’s The L.A. Complex?” or “Didn’t that show get, like, the worst ratings ever?”
It’s true: When this Canadian import first debuted on The CW in April, its premiere had the dubious honor of being crowned broadcast TV’s lowest-rated drama debut of all time. The numbers didn’t improve much in subsequent weeks, or when the series returned for a second season in August – season 2’s finale in September drew just 390,000 pairs of eyeballs. So it’s no surprise that yesterday, Canada’s Bell Media confirmed that it will not order a third season of Complex for its MuchMusic channel. Though The CW has not yet responded to EW’s request for comment, it’s very likely that the American network, too, will pass on a return trip to L.A.
And that’s a real shame, because The L.A. Complex is – was – one of the best dramas on television.
Don’t believe me? I can understand skepticism; after all, we’re talking about an apparent Melrose Place ripoff produced by the same folks who make Degrassi (and starring Cassie Steele, who survived nine seasons of jailbait sex, drunken boob-flashing, and ill-fated coke snorting at Degrassi Community School). But smart writing, naturalistic performances, and a large dose of irreverence helped the series transcend its ho-hum premise – group of dreamers live in the same apartment complex while trying to make it in Los Angeles – to become a sharp, refreshing dramedy.
Plus, The LA Complex must be the only show in TV history to feature a subplot about an aspiring actress getting into a twisted love triangle after having a threesome with a pair of performers who play siblings on a fake show that’s clearly a parody of Seventh Heaven.
But there’s much more to The LA Complex than sheer, ballsy ridiculosity – although it really, really never met an over-the-top storyline it didn’t love. Actors like Andra Fuller, Jewel Staite, Joe Dinicol, and even Steele kept the show grounded by delivering characters who were always well-drawn and believable, even when caught up in quasi-unbelievable situations. And for every case of arson or flirtation with the Church of Scienetics – The L.A. Complex’s answer to a certain trendy Hollywood religion – the show would throw in a realistic storyline about a couple competing against each other for a comedy writing job or a washed-up star doing whatever it took to get her indie comeback movie made. Fuller’s arc as a gangsta rapper struggling with his homosexuality was particularly poignant and sensitively handled.
All the great things I cited about the show back in August remained true throughout season 2, despite a few missteps involving new additions to the cast. (Did anyone really care about Beth and Simon, ever?) And though the last Complex episode aired ended with a shocking murder, the finale also offered a decent amount of closure for many of its characters. So while I’m going to keep crossing my fingers for a last-minute reprieve – sign the petition! – at least The L.A. Complex’s handful of fans won’t be tortured by a series of cliffhangers that will never be resolved.
So goodbye, sweet L.A. Complex. You deserved much better than you got, and I hope everyone involved in the show can move on to similarly good things. Hey, at least you were cut down in your prime rather than wearing out your welcome; if nothing else, as far as TV goes, it’s better to burn out than fade away.