18 August 2009 | VinnieRattolle
A comedy of errors
I vehemently abhor reality TV, but was lured into "On the Lot" with the promise of seeing filmmakers at work. What I was treated to, however, was a slow-motion trainwreck that seemed to get worse with each passing episode... so of course, I found myself captivated by it! In the first episode, there was clearly potential in the show as filmmakers paired up and were forced to work together on a short film. However, I don't think the short they were working on was ever aired...
The following week, "On the Lot" became a horrendous knock-off of "American Idol," and seemed to be retooled on an episode-to-episode basis. The new format was that filmmakers would make a short film each week (it was later leaked that the shorts were made before the show debuted), and get voted off by viewers. Although it seemed like the focus was supposed to be on the films they made, the show followed the standard reality TV format of making the contestants out to be heroes (visionary Adam Stein, family man Will Bigham, underdog Jason Epperson) and villains (tempermental Marty Martin) -- anyone who didn't get lumped into such a category stood no chance. Initial host Chelsea Handler was instantly replaced with charmless, clueless eye candy Adriana Costa, who emceed the show with all of the wit and charisma of an uncooked potato. Judge Carrie Fisher was there simply to be crazy, judge Gary Marshall came off like a sexist buffoon, and each week a different Hollywood director would sit in as guest judge -- most were obviously VERY embarrassed to be there. When ratings plummeted, the show was knocked down from two episodes a week to one, meaning viewers had to wait a full week to see who was voted off (though it was clear almost from the start who the three finalists would be).
What's sad is there was obviously talent involved, and the shorts themselves were generally entertaining (I'd love to see all the shorts collected and released on DVD). The problem was that everything about the show EXCEPT the shorts was ill-conceived. And the biggest travesty is that most of the directors haven't done anything notable since the show left the air -- finalist Adam Stein, in particular, routinely turned out creative and entertaining films, yet he has no further IMDb credits.
All in all, the show's most notable for being an unsightly pimple on the face of not only Hollywood, but also reality TV, which is a shame, 'cause it could've been so much more.