Monday, May 28, 2007

On the Lot

I'm sitting here sort of half-watching the latest episode of Fox's On the Lot, Mark Burnett's reality show for aspiring directors, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet. Part of that reason is that it seems like it's been a different show each time it's aired. Tonight it's basically American Idol - the directors each made a one-minute comedy short, which then gets shown and critiqued by the panel of judges (Garry Marshall, D.J. Caruso, Carrie Fisher - two hack directors and a has-been actress), and the audience then votes for their favorites. This is entirely different from the first two episodes, in which contestants were given challenges (make a pitch based on a log line, make a short in 24 hours in a team with two other directors, shoot a one-page scene in an hour) and then critiqued and eliminated by the judges. Those episodes were more like traditional reality shows, with cameras following the contestants as they performed their tasks and fought with each other. I haven't really been following any reality shows for a while, so it was sort of fun watching the standard annoying assholes treat each other poorly - yelling at the TV does have its appeal.

But now that all appears to have been thrown out. In fact, for some reason the challenge that had just started at the end of the last episode (shooting a one-page scene in an hour) was completely glossed over, the six people eliminated in that round essentially getting ignored completely. Now we've got an incredibly irritating, perky host (replacing, for some reason, Chelsea Handler from the earlier episodes) and no behind-the-scenes footage at all. Although it's interesting to watch short films by emerging filmmakers (that's what I've done at plenty of festivals, and I think the short is an underappreciated form), honestly most of these are pretty dismal, and the ones getting the most praise from the judges are basically flash over substance (and come off more like commercials than movies). I suppose that makes sense in a contest to crown a new Hollywood filmmaker, but the best popular filmmakers still have good storytelling and character-building skills, which seem lacking from most of these films. I wouldn't expect a challenging, independent voice to come out of this show, but if it could find the filmmaking equivalent of Kelly Clarkson (a talented, driven popular artist), that would be satisfying enough. If not that, at least some entertaining douchebags to yell at.

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