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I survived "On the Lot"

After reading a few other online reviews of the season finale of On the Lot, I'm feeling a little better about the whole ordeal. I really wanted to love this series. I wanted to believe it was rising above all other reality TV, if not primarily because it was a Spielberg project - then at least for the hope that it was a contest like we've never seen on TV before. And it was something near and dear to my heart: film-craft.

So I watched. I never really voted, since I caught most of the episodes posted on the (above linked) website after the voting was closed. But I voted in my mind... sort of. Some of the lingering thoughts I had throughout the duration were how the outcome of this process will translate in the real world - Could the winner of this show really succeed even under the wing of Spielberg?.., and that since Zach Lipovsky was obviously already the winner - how they were going to play out the events leading up to his win convincingly and stretch it out over multiple episodes. The other thought was that I wished the host, Adrianna Costa, could have also been voted off the show.

But Carrie Fisher's involvement is really what kept me coming back week after week. Maybe that's a no-brainer. The critiques from all of the judges and guest judges were invaluable to me. I also wanted to see how Zach's films were continuously miles in caliber above any of the other contestant's best work each week.

As each week went on, the show seemed to become more like what a friend of mine referred to as "American Idol for filmmaking", and I couldn't help but to agree even though I kept watching. It was an almost painful process to see this thing through to the end, especially for two major reasons - Zach was voted off several steps before the finals, and Jason Epperson came in second place. Every single film Jason created either bored me, embarrassed me (by the lack of craft being displayed for the world to see... and even worse - they voted for it!), and mostly offended me. I was also sad to see Adam get booted from the finals first.

Since the real judges of this show were supposedly the viewers, who could vote via the internet, text message, or call it in, one has to wonder how effective this kind of voting process is in determining who is worthy of a meeeellion dollar (Dr. Evil pronunciation) contract with Dream Works. To me, this seems about as random as winning the Pepsi Challenge from a bottle cap. Plus, internet voting wasn't even working for the finals. These thoughts actually comfort me considering the outcome of the contest.

Don't get me wrong. Will Bigham certainly seems a worthy winner. He seems talented, intelligent, and humble enough, and those watery puppy dog eyes certainly pull a song of sympathy from the heart strings. In my perfect world, Zach, Adam, and Will were the final three. Jason was voted off instantly with his disgrace to mentally handicapped people everywhere. Andrew, Phil, and Sam (well, Sam made it pretty far anyway) all made it to the second to last final round. Jess and Claudia got over themselves and actually made good films, since they really seemed to have the potential to do so (but maybe not under the contest conditions) and because it really would have been great to have a couple of females up there. In fact, Jess came in second place to Zach in my perfect world. In reality, she looked really pissed during the finals sitting there in the audience.

So I don't know who really voted for this thing, but I have the feeling Jason has a very large extended family and perhaps everyone in Kentucky (maybe they're all one big family) put in a call in vote for him - not because they liked his movies.

In the very end, the prize for the audience, or at least for me, was the glimpse of Steven Spielberg congratulating the winner (my prize for each episode was hearing primarily what Carrie had to say, but also the other judges) - and even that just didn't seem comfortable or right. Now my imagination is running wild filling in what really happened after the cameras cut while Steven and Will walked into the perfectly white balanced sunset of Spielberg Ranch. I also like to imagine how different the show would have been if the judges were the actual judges of the contest, along with other guest industry professionals.

As it turns out, mostly everyone who had anything to say about this show felt almost exactly the same as I. Some prime examples:

'On the Lot' goes out with a whimper by Daniel Fienberg

The foreign directors, the female directors, the minority directors and the few semi-experimental directors were weeded out by the halfway point. Instead, the contest came down to a group of young white men with unremarkable mainstream sensibilities.

Jason got off to an absolutely atrocious start with Getta Rhoom, possibly the season's worst project

no studio head in their right mind would (or should) hand any of them a million bucks based on this body of work.

in one of the most awkwardly staged moments in the history of television (or at least since Celine Dion did her duet with Zombie Elvis), Will hopped in a car and was taken to the DreamWorks lot, where he got to meet Spielberg, inconveniently on leave from Indiana Jones 4. Spielberg gave Will a big hug, claimed he loved all of his films and presented him with the key to his broom closet.

Somehow, Zach still should have won. Now, though, he won't need to wear the uneasy On the Lot Winner crown on his head for the rest of his career.
I agree with just about everything else Fienberg mentions except the crack at Carrie's cleavage.

On The Lot: Series Finale by JJ Hawkins

It's been painful in every nearly respect and I'm glad to finally be put out of my misery.
The part we didn't see is where Spielberg yanked the key back, called security, and had them forcefully escort Will off of Dreamwork's property.
Spielberg could be heard yelling, "Check out my IMDB page sometime. I've got more talent in my beard than you have in your entire body. America got it wrong."
Zach then pulled up in a second limousine, Spielberg handed him the key to the office, and nudged him toward a treasure chest filled with gold bullion.
That behind the scenes didn't really happen, but it should have!

On the Lot: Finale Recap by Oscar Dahl

... Mr. Dahl is much more forgiving, perhaps because he is a senior writer. I think we can fill in the blanks though ;)

Just read the above the reviews, even if you have been a casual On the Lot follower. You can always speed through the episodes at your leisure at the On the Lot website. (Note: Link brings you to the most recent episode first, so to watch from the beginning, scroll down in the right nav bar)... or not.


Thrawn said...

I watched a little bit of the show. When I heard that Zach was voted off I didn't watch it again.

Pitt said...

Never saw the show, but it sounds interesting. LOVE that Carrie Fisher pic! :)

nob01 said...

I could finally read this post having watched the series crammed into two evenings - the power of TiVo.

Pretty much agree with everything you said - this was a missed opportunity - perhaps if Speilberg had been more involved from the start, more folks would have tuned in, but I suspect he smelled what they were cooking and made some excuse about being busy with a film, or something.

We'll hear from Zach again...