On the Lot Stumbles, but I'm Still Hooked

Hmm. Did I miss something?

Last I left On the Lot (last Thursday's "Audition" episode #2, to be precise), there were 24 director-contestants, each getting ready to tackle a reasonably daunting assignment: Shoot a one-page scene in an hour, then bring it 'round to be judged; 18 winners move on.

Fast-forward to Monday -- the next advertised episode, unless I've got a different internet from everyone else's -- and we're already down to 18, they've all already completed their next assignment (to produce a comedy short in under a week), the old intro's gone, we've switched hosts (from unknown-to-me Chelsea Handler to easy-on-the-eyes but still-unknown-to-me Adrianna Costa), and instead of Jon Avnet or Brett Ratner, we get The Salton Sea and Disturbia's D.J. Caruso.

Wha ... ?

I might not make such up-front mention of all this if it were the first bit of confusion i'd encountered. But confusion's been the pesky little sister to my On the Lot experience since just about day one.

First and foremost, where are the audition shorts for the 50 directors who made it to the show? That's what I want to know. Where are the flicks that separated them from the rest of the unwashed masses? Add to that the relative instability of content on the site (results of the 24-hour-short assignment were up, then down except for one, then up again, and now gone) and the fact that today's the first time I've seen any sort of roster (click soon -- it may not be up for long) for any of the contestants, and the fact that they seem to've skipped an entire round of judging may just be par for the course. Sheesh. You think something with the name "Spielberg" on it might be a bit more organized.

Ah, well. At least things are clipping along.

So, last night's two-hour "film premiere" episode was pretty much that: A rapid-fire screening of the assigned 1-minute comedy shorts (again, news to me), which, as of this writing (after that, who knows?), can be viewed here. (Check out: "Replication Theory," "A Golf Story," "Danger Zone," "Getta Rhoom," "Spaced Out.") After each film, its author was trotted out to receive the panel's reactions.

Here's the thing. I get the panel deal. I do. It adds drama (albeit artificial drama, as it's the viewer voting -- at least in theory -- that holds actual sway). It adds prestige, as Carrie Fisher, Garry Marshall, and Avnet/Ratner/Caruso are heavyweights. It adds color, as the avuncular Marshall can always be counted on to say something entertaining (if occasionally borderline sexist -- which my wife wanted me to be sure to include). But the thing is, they're always awkward, they didn't disagree once, and they're just sort of uncomfortable to watch. And it's not really their fault -- it's an extremely tough spot. Maybe they'll get better as they go along, but I don't know.

All this seems pretty negative, I s'pose, but this is still my very favorite reality show ever, so far. And I'll certainly be watching tonight's results episode (Fox, Tues. 8/7c), and, barring unforeseeables, every installment to come. Just had to get that stuff off my chest.

My prediction: Kenny, Hilary, and Shalini are gone.

(Sorry, guys.)

------------------------------------------

Brian Villalobos lives in Austin, Texas (practically), writes on film and TV, and totally cried at Stuart Little.

[email me]