TV Review - DTLA

This series made headlines a month or so ago when it was announced that it would be the first TV series that originated as a Kickstarter campaign. The LOGO network picked it up for cable and online distribution. LOGO is a spin-off channel from MTV that caters programming to gay and lesbian audiences. DTLA centers on four couples living in downtown Los Angeles, which is what DTLA is the acronym for. Three of the four couples are gay relationships. It stars Darryl Stephens, the lead actor of Noah's Arc, another series on LOGO that dealt with same-sex, African-American couples.

DTLA was created by Larry Kennar who wrote and directed the first two episodes. The third episode was written by Darryl Stephens and it wasn't until that third one that I actually started enjoying the show. The first two episodes are rather unappealing. I don't think I found a single character likeable in any way, shape or form, besides everyone being physically attractive.

At the core are Lenny and Bryan. Darryl Stephens plays Lenny whose job is unclear but apparently he makes good money at a big firm in a tall building. Bryan, played by Matthew Stephen Herrick, is Lenny's boyfriend of six years, but Bryan has no job and his prospects or lack thereof only piss off Lenny. Add to the fact that Lenny thinks Bryan is cheating on him.

I love Darryl Stephens, but his character here is some kind of awful. Lenny is just constantly upset or annoyed. In three episodes, he never smiles at all. There is one point where Lenny has a flirtation with a masseuse but that's quickly shut down. For the majority of the time, Lenny complains about his relationship or he's just outright arguing with Bryan, and there's nothing inherent that would make us root for him. I just didn't feel any chemistry between him or Bryan, so I don't want to see them together, which is most likely the point, but, at the same time, it made me not want to watch the show.

Lenny and Bryan are clearly the center of this universe, but, in the first two episodes, the other three couples float in and out. We do get a few scenes that lay some groundwork for what comes to a head in episode three, but it's not enough. Stephens' script does salvage a lot. Nevertheless, I would argue that regardless of the writing the series has an authenticity and verisimilitude to it that no other show really has.

It's in part due to the fact the show deals with characters and situations in a way that no other show does. The third episode is proof of that. It takes us thankfully away from the Lenny and Bryan relationship. It instead pivots toward the relationship between Matthew, played by Patrick McDonald, and Marky, played by A. Scott Pretty. Matthew is an aspiring actor who gets cast in a gay play where he's going to have to be nude, a fact he hides from Marky.

Stephens writes an amazing scene between Matthew and his co-star in the gay play. It's awkward yet funny because it's obvious that Matthew is gay but that his co-star is straight. Yet, Matthew's co-star is willing to go "balls to the wall" unlike Matthew. The scene works because it plays on stereotypes and expectations in perfect ways, as well as in ironic ways.

Stephens' script also pivots toward the relationship between Stephan, played by Ernest Pierce, and Trey, played by Justin C. Jones. Both Stephan and Trey are African-American. Stephan, like Lenny, is more successful or is a white-collar, high-salary earner, as opposed to Trey who doesn't really have a job. The scene at the end of the third episode has Stephan having dinner at Trey's family's home. The scene plays on classism and is just as much a critique of black culture as it is a celebration of it and its many facets.

All of this comes brilliantly out of Stephens' script. If Stephens continues his writing for the series, the show will be fine or if Kennar learns from Stephens, then the show will be fine. The show might also be fine, if changes come to Lenny and Bryan's relationship immediately, either one way or the other.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA-LS.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Wednesdays at 11PM on LOGO.


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