Finally, some fireworks, man!
Clearly, somebody (or a cadre of somebodies) down in the fiery, forbidding bowels of Rupert Murdoch's secret volcano lair (don't even try to tell me that L.A. "corporate headquarters" business isn't just an elaborate decoy) has been scrambling her/his/their blessed little heart(s) out trying to get folks talking about On the Lot. How else, really, to explain not one, but two contestants getting into mini-tiffs with Carrie Fisher after a pair of less-than-glowing reviews?
I s'pose it's entirely possible that last week's polite confrontation (about two-thirds of the way through the June 12th episode) could simply be a function of stylesmith contestant Marty Martin's oft-discussed ego (and by "oft-discussed" I mean they've brought it up like twice) over time, perhaps coupled with stress and frayed nerves. The cynic in me, though, thinks it perfectly reasonable to suspect that some intern or production assistant, acting on direct orders from Murdoch's magma playset, pulled Mr. Martin aside just before taping and instructed him to be a little extra-prickly about criticism. For those lacking the inclination and/or time to go sifting through the episode, here is a partial transcript:
Leia Organa: "You know, it's a victory of style over substance [...] I think you're a really good craftsman, but the style of what you do is very distracting."
Marty Martin: "Okay."
Leia Organa: "But, um, you know, you're a ..."
Marty Martin: "Well, you know, [to audience] thank you. You know, I'd argue that there's a lot of films out there where it seems that the style may be distracting, but that's my style.
Leia Organa: "No, I don't, yes ..."
Marty Martin: "I had two-and-a-half minutes to tell a simple story, and I tried to use the, uh, style to help tell that story."
Leia Organa: "Well, you're a big fan of yourself, so you might not need me..."
Marty Martin: "No, no. I think that's kind of a rude thing to say. That's not true."
Leia Organa: "You're very confident."
Marty Martin: "I'm a filmmaker just like the rest, and I appreciate working with everybody else. I don't necessarily think I'm the best here; I just hope I get to the end."
Gary Marshall (ever the graceful mediator):"Why don't you talk in the parking lot, and let [guest judge ] David Frankel say something?"
To be fair, Martin's short was supremely slick, but light on story elements; Ms. Fisher took a bit of a cheap-shot with the "fan of yourself" line; and Marty indeed calls himself the show's "strongest" candidate at least twice during the film's intro. I guess once you get past the initial shock of talking to Carrie Fisher on national TV (or once your brain stops going "metalbikinimetalbikinimetalbikinihominahomina," whichever comes first) and she starts trashing your baby, all bets are off.
At any rate, Marty got tossed off this week, but the candor seems to have rubbed off. Normally poised 22-year-old NYU grad Jessica Brillhart bristled visibly this week when Fisher and guest judge Wes Freaking Craven(!) failed to warm to her experimental alt-horror offering, and made certain she got in her two cents.
So, what's up? Corporate machinations? Mounting pressures? Folks feeling trapped and patronized by the reality-TV monster?
One thing's sure: whatever the reason, these (admittedly rather mild) outbursts -- and Craven's cameo -- have managed to capture far more interest 'round my house than this week's crop of films.
Do your worst, Volcano Exec Squad!
Brian Villalobos lives in Austin, Texas (practically), writes on film and TV, and totally cried at Stuart Little.