I Tried, I Really Tried

I wanted On the Lot to succeed, to be good. For crying out loud, I’m an independent filmmaker — you’d think I am the target audience for this thing. And if there’s one think Mark Burnett knows, it’s reality TV.

Even once I found out (and you’ll have to trust me on this) that the initial selection process was completely rigged — the show was totally precast — I gave it every benefit of the doubt. I was pissed off at the deception, but I can understand the motivation.

Hell, I stuck with it as long as I could. But last night was the last nail in the coffin.

Initially, the show looked like it had promise. It began as an interesting look at what goes into film production — a behind-the-scenes look, à la The Apprentice — so far, so good. Then out of the blue, they skip an entire episode? Excuse me? They go from teasing a one-page production challenge with 24 contestants one episode to making no mention of that challenge and just 18 contestants the next? Did I miss something here?

Then they change hostesses, drop one judge in favor of a “guest judge” position (maybe I should give Brett Ratner credit for noticing something here), and turn the whole thing into a cheap American Idol knockoff. Burnett, what the hell are you thinking? (Let’s be honest, Spielberg’s just a name on a marquee for this thing. Well, that and money.) The first “results” show was no more than 10 minutes of content stretched out to an hour. Seriously groan-inducing. (Thank god for the “skip forward” function on the DVR.)

And then they sink even further. After having gone through several “challenges,” they decide to throw the idea of actually giving the directors something new to do out the window altogether: They go back to the three-minute shorts the directors did to get into the competition in the first place. And even that they’re dragging out for three weeks.

Sorry, two weeks was all I could stomach on this one. I’m done.

I’m willing to bet that they started with one vision of the show, and then after showing it to test audiences, they radically revamped it, and now they’re just filling time until they can figure out what to do next.

Now, if I were in a position to offer advice, the pragmatist in me would know exactly what to tell the producers — pull the plug. This experiment failed. Give it up and move on. (And I think I can bring up some ratings to back me up on this call.)

But let’s say they insist on going ahead. I don’t think I’m bringing up anything radical in offering some pretty basic solutions, things that they should have thought of beforehand.

  1. Go back to the original format. Seeing how movies are made, how these directors work is the interesting part. Really, that’s all you’re bringing to the table. Having directors sit on stage while you show their films? Tedious and pointless. This is a reality show — we have to care about the contestants.

  2. Come up with new content each week. For crying out loud, you can't go from step D in the competition all the way back to step A and expect it to mean anything. And don’t give me any crap about not being able to make a movie each week. I can show you right now that that’s horseshit.

  3. Figure out something for the judges to actually do. Michael Bay is far from what I’d call a great director (am I the only one on the planet who thinks Transformers is going to suck hard?), but he was the only one in last week’s episode that had anything constructive to say. (If I hear Garry Marshall give one more “I didn’t like this film, but we need more women directors” comment...) And if “America” votes, then really, what’s the point of the judges anyway? Which brings me to...

  4. Drop the whole “America votes” concept. Bad idea to begin with. So far, some of the best directors have been cut, and some of the utter hacks are continuing (and I don't mean the “Getta Rhoom” guy — as offensive as I thought the film was, it was definitely well put together). The whole thing just becomes arbitrary. Survivor had a solid advancement/rejection concept. The Apprentice had a firm (and qualified) judge, not to mention the outsized personality of Donald Trump. American Idol really is a popularity contest, so the voting is fine there. But this totally doesn't work.

  5. Get a real host. Adrianna Costa may be (as Marshall is keen to point out) nice to look at, but she brings nothing to the proceedings. They need someone with industry experience, or at least stage presence. (Okay, so she’s really nice to look at. But still...)
Odd that I have so much to say about a show that I’m not even going to be watching anymore. I suppose it’s just that I had such hopes, and it proved such a grave disappointment.

But the most important thing to remember is that the show sucks. That’s my point here. Let’s not forget that.

Makes me want to try my own stab at television programming...

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