One possible definition for the concept of a legend is the place where reality and fiction mix, ideally for the telling of a good story. This proves to be a good way to describe Legends of LALA, a quasi-fauxumentary series about the Los Angeles music scene that features real singer/songwriters seeking fame and fortune. Their portal to success could be the legendary record producer Nick Silver — though, probably not.
For Silver is a fictional character, played by an undisclosed actor/director series creator Matthew Arnold met through a mutual friend. “I thought he’d be the perfect metaphor for the old-school record label,” he said via chat. “EVERYONE in rock and roll swears they know a Nick.”
Phil Spector-ish in looks and appearance (sans the murder charges), Silver exists as the voice of the now-dying music industry, going on an impressive rant in episode 1 about how things have changed since the 70s heydays of rock and roll. It concludes with a knowing wink to the audience — an unseen narrator, who sounds vaguely like Derek Zoolander trying to do a British accent, remarks: “Nick ranted for 35 minutes, until we ran out of tape.” But the points he’s making still have salience.
And the artists to whom he rants aren’t too bad. The current episodes feature soul/garage performer Mason Reed and Australian singer/songwriter D. Henry Fenton, whose music provides a soundtrack for the episodes while also giving Silver material to riff on. The mix of improv comedy and music works because the actor playing Silver maintains an impressive deadpan that rivals Richard Belzer’s, but the performers give as good as they get. “The show stemmed from the little banter that musicians chat in between songs,” Arnold said. “I’ve always found singer/songwriters to be such great communicators — at times sad and lonely in song, but then hilarious and self-deprecating in the in-between-song banter.”
According to Arnold, Legends of LALA costs about $1,000 an episode and is being funded out-of-pocket by himself and co-producer David Lackman. But the series has also generated interest in a potential feature adaptation that Arnold is developing, and thus he hopes that the cost of the series would be absorbed by the feature as a marketing expense.
The major hurdle Legends viewers face is understanding what’s real and what isn’t, especially in light of how easily the performers interact with Silver. But the production is so clean, and the mix so intriguing, that like every great legend, it’s best enjoyed by not asking too many questions.