On the Lot Film Premiere Episode TONIGHT!

So, my TV diet's been looking a hair on the anemic side ever since SNL and everything else went to reruns. My wife's set -- she's got that special glow about her that she (and every female person you've ever seen, met, or imagined) always seems to get this time of year, courtesy of So You Think You Can Dance?.

Lucky for me, I've stumbled upon a semi-saving-grace, something to tide me over at least until Transformers gets here, in terms of conversation fodder. And who'd'a thunk it (not me, certainly): It's a reality show.

Following Thursday's follow-up episode, my first impression of Spielberg's/that one guy's/Fox's On the Lot remains more or less intact: As far as format's concerned, there's nothing yet here that we haven't seen elsewhere -- manufactured melodrama via editing/music cues/commercial breaks/et cetera -- but the possibilities seem greater. And not just because the attached folks are bigger (judges-wise, Carrie Fisher, Garry Marshall, and Brett Ratner [deal with it] are bona fide name players, and John Avnet's directing that indie with Pacino and De Niro in it). My sense, which I've seen voiced elsewhere, too, is that the aspiring-director winner of the DreamWorks development deal has a shot to make a much greater cultural impact over the length his or her career than any American Idols or Think You Can Dancers.

Review: Last Tuesday's hour-long installment was the first of two "audition episodes" in which 50 directors pitched premises to the judges, and the field was narrowed to 36. The survivors formed groups of three (cue bickering) -- each group made a two-and-a-half-minute film in 24 hours. On Thursday, we saw the results, and got down to 24. Each was then assigned a one-hour, one-page, one-scene shoot with a professional crew and location. Tonight's two-hour "Film Premiere" will showcase them, and viewers will vote for 18 finalists.

Which is cool, because my biggest complaint so far is the difficulty I've encountered in trying to get hold of anything (besides this) made by any of these folks. Their audition shorts seem to've been pulled from the show's otherwise extensive site (past full episodes and user-submitted films available), and the clips we get on the show itself are too teasingly brief.

I'm excited, man. This is the first reality show I don't feel guilty about getting into, because I'm genuinely interested -- one of these folks is going to make a true-blue, wide-release DreamWorks feature one of these days, fer cryin' out loud (Project Greenlight was [is?] noble; this is bigger).

Will we be stunned? Will folks crash and burn? Will anyone call out Marshall for Georgia Rule or be all, "Dude, Rush Hour 2 sucked"?

Check it out. 8/7c, Fox.

Then let's meet back here and spill, girls!

(P.S. One more plug: Bam! and Bam!)

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

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