Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The L.A. Complex: “Halfway”

Illustration for article titled The L.A. Complex: “Halfway”
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Last week, I whined a little about how The L.A. Complex is at its best when its characters are simultaneously wrestling with their personal problems and the demands of what, in the entertainment industry, passes for work, and the latest episode seemed kind of light on workplace dilemmas. (It can be a hard call, because for someone like Kaldrick King, proper maintenance of his image is so important to his stardom that he’s “working” whenever anyone else can see him.) Tonight, we got an episode rich in workplace drama, with some complicated situations, based on the ever-blurring line between where one might comfortably eat and where it would behoove one to shit, that the actors could really sink their teeth into. A.J. Liebling once wrote that Joe Louis was his favorite boxer because of the way Louis had of making him feel that he was a participant in the event at hand; whenever he saw him fight, Liebling would, at some point, yell, “Lay him out, Joe,” and at some point soon after, Louis would invariably show that he had heard Liebling by doing as he had advised. Maybe The L.A. Complex is my Joe Louis.

Having figured that it had toyed with America’s emotions long enough, tonight, the show finally decided to end the suspense and have Scott, the douchebag whoremonger of the writers’ room on Paul F. Tompkins’ talk show, declare that Nick would be getting the coveted seat that he and Sabrina had been battling over for longer than most new talk shows get to stay on the air. Nick, to his credit, takes no joy in this, because he knows he hasn’t earned it; just in case he lacked the self-knowledge to think otherwise, Sabrina had already made a pre-emptive strike on his ego by pointing out to him that he was fated to get the job because comedy, as a business, does not favor the sole woman in the room, and Scott, who seems to have latched onto Nick as a kind of good luck charm when he’s touring brothels, is not the man to help her crack the glass ceiling. It’s only natural that Sabrina is angry at Nick over this, because she’s human. It’s just as natural that, having won the job, Nick shows up at her apartment prepared to call Scott and tell him to shove it, because he’s Nick. Thankfully, some last, wispy vestige of self-preservation has prevented him from making the call before she’s physically close enough to stop him, so they get to have energetic make-up sex, secure in the knowledge that one of them has a steady paycheck that will come in handy if they break the bed. There may yet be hope for these two.

The same cannot be said for Abby and her job on Alan Thicke’s Christian TV show, though the poor kid went down swinging, in more than one sense of the word. Having broken up with Brandon and Laura, the two co-stars she was seeing on the sly, she tries to reconnect to Laura, ambushing her between takes and asking, “Can I talk to you for a second?” “Can you maybe do it later?” says Laura, with a smile to freeze the marrow and a tone of voice that leaves innocent bystanders picking shrapnel out of their vanilla lattes.  (In a more open mood, she yells, “I will crucify you!”) The script gives Thicke’s character a little credit in the inevitable breakdown scene in his office: Appalled as he is by the sordidness that this interloper has smuggled onto his set, he isn’t eager to fire her until she goes nuts and starts rummaging in his desk, desperate to find some evidence that he has his own NC17-rated side, which he plainly doesn’t. Alone and jobless, Abby drags her sorry ass back to the Lux, to knock pitifully on doors—Nick’s, Connor’s—belonging to people who are off somewhere doing better. Connor has his own wholesome three-way going with Krista Allen’s Jennifer and her ex-husband Eric, with whom he has settled into the most tenderly stirring bromance between two guys involved with the same woman since George Segal and Kris Kristofferson in Blume In Love. The little dickens is so pre-occupied with keeping Eric on the straight and narrow that he got through the whole hour without burning himself once.

They could use more that communal family spirit on the set of Celebrity Halfway House. Instead, Raquel has taken the place over and turned it into her own vehicle, manipulating her fellow rehabbers to shape the program into a showcase for her caring, nurturing side, but at what cost? She coldly urges the Bonaducean Ricky to bully and insult the more gentle faded child star Zach, so she can then be seen comforting the poor guy, who seems much less hurt by Ricky’s libeling his mother’s good character than by his daring to suggest that Zach, even at the peak of his earning power, was never a good actor. You can see where this is going from a mile away, but Raquel remains the most complex and compelling character on the show, whenever King isn’t. King makes a great leap in the right direction tonight, in a development that’s all the more surprising because it’s part of a plot line that, at first, just looks like a way to get Infinite Jest back onto the show. (Though there’s a funny indicator of where this is going when King tells Jest, “Even your lawyer’s got better verbal skills than you.”) It’s a measure of how these characters pop out of the box that it’s hard not to feel relieved for him, even knowing that it’ll probably all end in tears.

Stray observations:

  • The Beth-and-Simon stuff isn’t moving forward, at least not in any direction you want to see it go. Tonight, it turns out that Simon is so sore about Beth costing him that job last week, not because he’s worried about not having a place to sleep, but because he thinks they’re trying to “make enough money to get to Dad in Alaska.” I had no idea this was part of the agenda, and I was glad to see that Beth had no idea either, though she maybe should have had an inkling of it, since they live together. I only get to see the kid for an hour every week.
  • There's no sign this week of Eddie, the Lux's one-man Greek chorus, and he is missed. But the guys hanging around the Lux who have the great script who haven’t had much of  a reason to still be on the show since they gave Raquel’s role to Ellen Page had a pretty good week. They got to drag out a camera and help with Simon’s screen test, and one of them got to give Beth a pep talk. Being bit players in Beth and Simon’s storyline may be a comedown from being bit players in Raquel’s, but as this show always reminds you, it’s tough out there.
  • Tonight’s episode marks its first in its new timeslot, a change that comes a week after Ken Tucker, in Entertainment Weekly, called this the best show in the history of The CW. (I know, talk about your backhanded compliments…) Moving a fairly sexy show to an hour where, in these dying days of summer, it’s not even dark outside yet is a pretty ostentatious way for the network to declare their absolute lack of interest in attracting an audience for it. They could have just not pulled a quote from the magazine to put on a billboard