Thursday, June 07, 2007

The downward spiral of On the Lot

Could ON THE LOT be a bigger disaster?

I could have sworn that my DVR was set to record a two-hour episode Monday night, and then magically *poof* it was no longer in the list. Odd. Yet unexplained disappearances are par for the course for this program. From the first week to the second week the show changed hosts, lost a challenge, and six finalists mysteriously vanished. (There were 24 contestants after the audition episodes, but only 18 directors were present for last week's comedy short challenge.) At this rate ON THE LOT won't even air next week, which might be what all involved with it would prefer.

This week's big shake-up was a format change. Rather than each of the remaining fifteen directors making a short to present, only five unspooled films for the audience and judges. Three minutes to work with didn't mean we got anything more original than the derivative pieces shown last week.

BROKEN PIPE DREAMS had some moderately clever direction but points off for replicating the famous shot from THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. TERI redid that bit from countless romantic comedies in which there's a montage of someone meeting all sorts of "wacky" blind dates. Perhaps the big twist on it is to make it a fantasy sequence? This is what the best undiscovered talent comes up with? At least THE FIRST TIME I MET THE FINKELSTEINS had a couple decent lines in its moldy premise of a woman meeting her boyfriend's boorish parents. The handheld DV style, a la InDigEnt films, didn't work at all, though.

DOUGH: THE MUSICAL looked good in comparison, if only because it gave the impression that it took some creativity to develop the idea in the five days the filmmakers were supposedly given. (More on that later.) LAUGHING OUT LOUD: A COMIC JOURNEY, a documentary short about a gay Indian comedian, showed some visual style but featured banal content. Obviously this made it guest judge Michael Bay's favorite of the bunch.

ON THE LOT message boards contain rumors that this week's films were what the contestants submitted to be cast on the show or made during earlier, non-televised eliminations. I wouldn't be surprised if this is recycled content of some kind because the directors made unusual statements when describing their work. They talked about making the films at home and scrounging for equipment. Surely the producers don't send them back to their hometowns and make them acquire the equipment they need, right?

Then again, this is a terribly produced show. Host Adrianna Costa butchers her lines, which might be understandable if it were live. (It isn't, as far as I know.) Umm, anybody heard of multiple takes if she's screwing up the copy on the teleprompter? The contestants don't know where to stand or what camera to look at, and Costa doesn't always seem certain either. It feels like they're making it up as they go along.

Truly bad TV is almost always funnier than sketches or movies that try to be intentionally bad for laughs. ON THE LOT has reached that lowly level of wretchedness. God bless Garry Marshall. The guy's movies stink, but his rah-rah boosterism is hysterical. If only GEORGIA RULE had been as funny as this gem from Tuesday's show: "Ring a ding ding, you lost the bling. You had a fish. You had a dog." (It loses some effect without his Catskills comedian delivery.)

Believe it or not, Michael Bay had the most cogent, if vague, advice for the aspiring filmmakers. (In all fairness to the critical whipping boy, I've liked some of his films.)

It's beyond idiotic that there will be a week's wait for the results, but like I said, who knows if Fox will continue to send this over the airwaves? At least we're spared a repeat of last week's rack torture known as the hour-long results show.

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