The Telefile
<I>The L.A. Complex</I>: Is This the New <I>Melrose Place</I>?

The L.A. Complex is a Canadian export that is airing on the U.S. on The CW. It's in keeping with the network brand and an oddly suitable pairing for its increasingly ridiculous 90210 series. Particularly since this new (at least to Americans) show is essentially an alternate version of the Melrose Place update that was cancelled by The CW a couple of years ago. And while L.A. Complex isn't at all what you'd call a good show or remotely original, it's more watchable than MP 2.0, though maybe only slightly. It doesn't help that Complex starts off with the most annoying song of all time, making us feel like we're being forced to sit inside an MRI machine, though once you get past that, there's plenty of entertainingly mindless fluff to enjoy. Here's how the two series compare:

The "Famous" Cast Members
The show features Cassie Steele (Manny from Degrassi: The Next Generation) and Jewel Staite (Kaylee from Firefly), two of our Canadian faves. And while Melrose had some alums from the original series hanging out, the main cast of young people featured Ashlee Simpson. Even if we did learn to love Katie Cassidy because of the show, MP was decidedly dragged down by Ash.

The Less Familiar Faces
Look, we don't expect these young kids to be able to deliver Shakespeare convincingly (though L.A. Complex's building manager likes to try), but Melrose's Stephanie Jacobsen, Jessica Lucas and Michael Rady had about as much on-screen charisma as a piece of toast to share between them. Complex co-star Chelan Simmons is attractive and at least can dance, while Benjamin Charles Watson looks about 12 but has a fresh-faced eagerness that we can appreciate. Also, though it is only in a recurring role, we're also happy to see Instant Star co-star Kristopher Turner resurface.

The Jobs
On L.A. Complex, almost everyone is trying to break into the entertainment business: Connor (Jonathan Patrick Moore) just got a leading man role on a medical drama, but he's so lonely that he has to have lots of sex to cope; Abby (Steele) can't pay her rent so she turns to any gig that lets her stay in L.A. instead of returning to Toronto; Alicia (Simmons) wants to be a dancer on Usher tours, but makes a living as a stripper; Raquel (Staite) is a former leading lady who is struggling not to be billed as "old"; Tariq (Watson) is an aspiring music producer; and Nick (Joe Dinicol) is a nerdy loser who wants to break into stand-up. Based on the few episodes we've seen, we're far more invested in these down-on-their-luck kids trying to make it big than the chef, teacher, med student and publicists that MP offered up.

Behind the Scenes Folks
Let's see, a bunch of guys who worked on Smallville or the team that brought us a million seasons of Degrassi and Instant Star? Yeah, we'll take the Degrassi team, especially since alum Stefan Brogren stepped behind the camera to direct a few episodes. Always side with Snake.

The Residence
Melrose Place had the lovely spacious apartments that surrounded a beautiful pool. On L.A. Complex, everyone's crushed into a motel (with a pool) called the Deluxe Suites (or The Luxe, for short) and partying all the time with resident musicians providing the tunes and plenty of random potential networking opportunities cropping up. It's a bit noisier, but a lot more realistic considering the income (or non-income) of the characters.

The Ridiculous Storylines
Here, Melrose may have the upper hand, what with all the backstabbing and murders and thieving it had going on. Complex takes a lighter tack, with money troubles and a plethora of sexy (and not so sexy) hookups, which is actually a lot easier to jump into than seeing Sydney dead in a pool. That said, it's so nice to be told that in both realities, women are willing to sell themselves for fame/fortune.

The Special Guests
Again, Melrose brought it with the likes of Heather Locklear and Brooke Burns, but L.A. Complex sure tries its best with cameos by Mary Lynn Rajskub and Paul F. Tompkins in the first episode, and supposedly Alan Thicke at some point. Yes, it's small potatoes compared to Melrose, but we'll cut it some slack since it lets us see Chloe from 24 act like a total bitch.

No, this isn't our strongest endorsement, but we'll happily sit through the six soapy episodes scheduled to air just to see Jewel Staite gainfully employed in something other than sci-fi, if for no other reason.

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