THE L.A. COMPLEX. 9 p.m. Tuesday, CW Philly 57.
SUMMER ARRIVES a little early on the CW and with it, the Canadians.
"Smash" meets "Melrose Place" in Tuesday's premiere of "The L.A. Complex," a guilty pleasure of a Canadian drama set in Los Angeles about (mostly) young people trying to make it in show business and, of course, with each other.
Northern imports like ABC's "Rookie Blue" and CBS' "Flashpoint" have become one way U.S. networks keep the lights on between seasons when their cable rivals are at their most aggressive. CBS has opted not to run the fifth season of "Flashpoint" — it's been picked up here by Ion — but NBC will add the Toronto-set medical drama "Saving Hope" to its lineup June 7.
Given how much of our television is already filmed in Toronto and Vancouver and how many of their actors already work here, the border may not matter, especially in a story about a place where almost everyone seems to be from somewhere else, anyway.
And though the "complex" in "The L.A. Complex" appears to refer more to a worn-but-lively apartment-style motel known as the Luxe than to the plotting, what starts out as a seemingly generic series about an assortment of showbiz wannabes becomes more engaging over the first few episodes. More engaging, certainly, than some of the CW's homegrown soaps (though I say this as someone who couldn't actually resist the largely idiotic "Hart of Dixie" but thought "Melrose Place" should have stayed buried).
Jonathan Patrick Moore plays Connor, an affable Australian who's graduated to a home of his own after landing a role on a medical series where he may have been cast more for his looks than his abilities.
Headed in the other direction: Raquel (Jewel Staite), a former teen star who's living at the Luxe, trying to claw her way back as an actress on the wrong side of 25.
Joe Dinicol is Nick, a barista, aspiring standup and the guy destined to have unrequited crushes on the women who'd rather be with someone like Connor, starting with Abby (Cassie Steele), who can sing and maybe act but who can't make her rent. Or catch a break.
Other talented strugglers include Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson), a frustrated gofer at a hip-hop recording studio who's tiring of errand-running and not afraid to say so, and Alicia (Chelan Simmons), a dancer whose day job pays the bills but won't get her called back for the gigs she really wants.
There's a fun cameo by Mary Lynn Rajskub ("24"), playing herself, in the pilot, but it's the main characters and their stories who establish "Complex's" L.A., a place that's as much a state of mind as it is an actual location.