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A Look At CW's 'The L.A. Complex' And Its 'Down-low Rappers' Story Thread

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 7, 2012 at 12:15PM

Continuing to play catch up on all the TV shows that feature black characters in prominent roles, or significant storylines... I gave this one a shot, going in blindly, really not knowing what the heck to expect. But I figured I'd give it my customary 3-episode viewing to get a good enough feel for it, before deciding whether to continue watching, and so that I can at least talk about it with some authority.
15
La Complex

Continuing to play catch up on all the TV shows that feature black characters in prominent roles, or significant storylines... I gave this one a shot, going in blindly, really not knowing what the heck to expect. But I figured I'd give it my customary 3-episode viewing to get a good enough feel for it, before deciding whether to continue watching, and so that I can at least talk about it with some authority.

I don't believe Curtis has covered this series in his This Week In Black TV series, so I thought I'd mention it because there's some stuff going on here that I think you folks should be aware of, if you're not already.

Plus the series was renewed for a second season (which will premiere next month); so, obviously, folks are watching this. I'm just not sure if a lot of black folks are.

Here's the rundown... earlier this year, the CW network acquired this Canadian soap titled The L.A. Complex (6 episodes produced for season 1), which drew comparisons to Melrose Place - essentially, a show revolving around the lives of a group of 20-somethings living in the same LA apartment complex, each chasing Hollywood dreams.

So here's what you need to know... Canadian of Jamaican decent Benjamin Charles Watson (seated in the above photo) and LA-based Andra Fuller (standing in the photo above) are members of this international group of 20-somethings, which also stars Jonathan Patrick Moore, Cassie Steele, Joe Dinicol, and Chelan Simmons.

Of obvious interest to this blog are characters played by Benjamin Charles Watson and Andra Fuller.

WARNING: SPOILERS Ahead.

Watson's character is named Tariq, a talented hip-hop artist (primarily a beat maker/master/producer) from Montreal working as an intern, who happens to be gay, although he's not completely *out* yet; only his closest friends are aware of that fact. This is obviously of significance to his storyline otherwise I wouldn't mention it. The fact that he works in the world of hip-hop should clue you into some of the challenges he faces.

And Andra Fuller's character is named as Kaldrick, a very successful rapper who trades on his outwardly thuggish image. The problem there is that it's all a front so that he can sell records, because that's what sells (I suppose speaking to the frustrations many have expressed about hip-hop in recent years); and oh, by the way, he's also gay, but deep in the closet. 

And here's where it all gets funky. Straight-laced Tariq the intern is assigned by his boss to work with client Kaldrick (whom everyone believes to be the thuggiest of thugs, and generally hard to deal with and please; even though all that's a front; but nobody knows that); Tariq is at first scared of the proposition, but he's ambitious and all that, and so he takes on the challenge. 

The two meet to begin working on some tracks for Kaldrick. They spend a day together, with Kaldrick being his faux thuggish self, and Tariq the opposite; neither knows the other is gay. There's all kinds of initial conflict and drama, and Tariq is a bit scared to work with this dude.

The day comes to a close, and they end up back at Kaldrick's mansion, still playing their individual fake *roles.* But something's obviously changed during the course of the day, as Kaldrick now seems to have realized that Tariq just might be gay, or is gay. He challenges Tariq to "do something," thuggish style, aggressive, in his face, as music he put on blasts in the background. And suddenly, they're sucking face and ripping each others' clothes off. 

And that's just in the first 2 episodes. Keep in mind that there are about 5 other different stories, following the lives of others, happening simultaneously.

I actually didn't see any of that coming until much later in that second episode, so it was a bit unexpected. 

I won't say anymore; you'll just have to watch for yourselves to see what happens next. I haven't watched all the episodes, and don't know if I will continue; I've done my 3-episode duty :)

What I can tell you that, as you'd probably expect, there's plenty of conflict between these 2. They apparently develop a relationship, with Kaldrick having to maintain his thuggish front to his entourage and to the public, while Tariq wants to go public with it all. How long they sustain this back and forth, I don't know.

But you may want to consider checking out the series for yourselves, especially with all the talk over the years about homosexuality in hip-hop. This takes it head-on, and actually turned out to be a little more complex a depiction of a scenario than I expected; though the 'down-low rapper' thread might be tiresome to some, or seen as a little too late.

I'm curious about how this particular thread in the series is being received by the LGBT community - specifically the black LGBT community. It's not often that this kind of storyline shows up in a primetime network TV series, does it? So do chime in.

One thing I'm surprised by about the show is just how adult its depictions of sexuality (both hetero and homo) are, given that its on the CW. Nothing graphic, per say, but definitely a little more than you'd probably expect for a show like this, and on this network.

I'll close by saying that I was expecting the worst when I decided to finally check out the series myself, but I can say that it's actually not that bad. Or maybe my expectations were met. If you watched shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place back in the day, you'll probably like this. It's pretty much a similar kind of vibe. Comparisons to those shows, based on what I've seen so far, are accurate. 

And if you're chasing Hollywood dreams, you just might dig it too, even though the set-ups are a bit thin. But almost every kind of performer is represented - filmmakers, actors, dancers, comedians, musicians.

Despite what weren't the strongest ratings for season 1, there will be a season 2, which begins July 17 at 9 pm. I think I'm done with the series, as I move onto the next new series to catch up on. I watch so you don't have to :)

I believe you can watch episodes of season 1 on the CW website.

This article is related to: Television, TV News


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