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Bill Brioux: Developing a Complex About TV Guest Spots
May 21, 2012  | By Bill Brioux

After years of watching actors shoot scenes in TV shows, even the most jaded TV critic has thought to his or her self, hey, this acting thing doesn’t look so tough.

Occasionally we get an opportunity to test that assumption. My most recent “star turn” came on the set of a show that airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on The CW, The L.A. Complex.

Now, I have snuck into a few scenes before. A few years back, I was killed on a wild little Canadian comedy called Puppets Who Kill. I played a hippie dude who comes to the door of this halfway house for wayward puppets. You can look me up — the stunt landed me my very own IMDb listing.

Some critic colleagues have enjoyed their own 15 seconds of fame. Many years ago, my editor at TV Guide Canada received what was then one of the most prized shout outs on television — being paged as part of the background chatter on St. Elsewhere. And, of course, David Bianculli enjoyed a recent shout-out on Parks and Recreation.

Just last summer, I snuck into several scenes as “miner No. 7” in the Canadian period drama Murdoch Mysteries. This was a location shoot, way, way up in Dawson City, Yukon. I was fitted up in duds from the 1890s and had my teeth painted tobacco yellow. I was asked to cross streets toting supplies, step out of saloon doors and just generally be conspicuous looking inconspicuous. That episode is scheduled to kick off the series’ fifth season on City-TV in June.

It was that gig which lead to my next on-set offer—to sneak into the background on The L.A. Complex. Publicists aren’t dummies. They know if they can trick a scribe into being in a scene, ego boy is sure to write a nice cover story for some publication.

Still, producers had to be asking themselves if a little bit of ink from me was worth the trouble. Puppets Who Kill was cancelled shortly after my episode aired. Before my brief moments of glory even aired, the Canadian network carrying Murdoch Mysteries announced it was walking away from that production after five seasons. (Another Canadian network, CBC, has since ordered a sixth season.)

Add The L.A. Complex to the list of shows I have killed. Tuesday’s episode will be the fifth and final one shown on The CW. The Canadian network has ordered another 13, but losing an American network partner is never a good sign.

If you haven’t seen it already (that would be most of you), the series is about a group of young Hollywood wannabes who find lodging at a seedy hotel. The premise is not-so-loosely based on the real Highland Gardens, a funky place on Franklin Avenue, just three or four hookers over from Hollywood’s Chinese Theater. For many years it has been a relatively inexpensive hang out for young Canucks trying to make it in L.A.  Janis Joplin once stayed there, as did members of the Jefferson Airplane. Siegfried & Roy even bunked there once, so the place must take pets.

A replica of the motel was built on a Epitome Pictures lot in Toronto, the same place where Degrassi: The Next Generation has been filmed for many years. So, yes, a series about young Canadian hopefuls trying to make it in Hollywood is shot on a replica of a Hollywood motel built in Toronto.

I was invited onto the set several months ago and met with many of the stars as well as producer/director Martin Gero (HBO’s Bored to Death). Since he'd already helmed a notorious little Canadian film called Young People F***ing, he seems like a perfect choice for this caper.

Gero (pictured at the top of this column with me and actress Kate Todd) wisely stuck me well into the background. If you look closely in Tuesday’s episode, that's me as one of the doctors standing behind a patient on a table as aspiring actor Connor Lake (Aussie Jonathan Patrick Moore) barges drunkenly into a scene. The crew rigged me up with a surgical mask and a visor to try and tone down my otherwise electric star qualities.

Networks looking to kill off long running shows in order to avoid paying huge star salaries are invited to contact my agent immediately. I could explode Big Bang, tank Two and a Half Men and even murder Modern Family. All I ask is access to the craft services table and a sizzle reel. I’ll even share Sofia Vergara’s dressing room.


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