Jul 15, 2007

I Left "The Lot" And Never Looked Back

I'm a fan of Steven Spielberg. I've seen nearly all of his work, and I feel that he's the epitome of the classic filmmaker (not a modern filmmaker, mind you; as much of a fan I am, I think the directors of A Band Apart are what I'd like to be if I was a director). I know he has been a producer for . . . ever, but some things I wonder if Spielberg just signed on for a paycheck only.

On The Lot is one of those occasions.

Filmmakers competing for a chance for a $1 million-dollar contract with Dreamworks, the studio Mr. Spielberg co-founded and sold to Viacom, who already owned Paramount Pictures (but that's a whole other story). At first, it seemed like a grand experiment. Then, all of a sudden, it transformed into a nerdy "American Idol" for film geeks. Hoping to see the show improve, it, alas, didn't. Fox pared down the airings from two episodes a week to one, and effectively killed the show, though the show is still on.

I can't totally blame Spielberg for the lacklusterness of On The Lot. Like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs before it, Spielberg's only the executive producer and has little to do with the series, and Mark Burnett, well, everything he does is scat.

Survivor (which he didn't create but acquired American rights to) wore thin after the second season, as did The Apprentice (but that wasn't totally Burnett's fault but rather the arrogant bastard who runs the show, you know, a man so vile he personifies six of the seven deadly sins (save sloth).

Needless to say, the first episodes of On The Lot intrigued the latent film geek in me, the former Dawson Leery within that wrote stories and the like back in grade school imagining them on the screen (I still do that, but with comics and novels only though). Then, they turned the series into "Filmmaker Idol," and it just ruined everything. In lesser hands, it probably would have been a better concept. Cross the initial episodes of On The Lot with a Project Greenlight-like environment without the audience participation, and it would have been a great series, not to mention a successful one. But alas, it was not meant to be.

The last time I felt this way was when I heard about and then saw NBC's "Fame" reality show a couple of years ago. The producers only used the "Fame" movie brand, but essentially made it into "Young America Can Dance and Sing." Nobody remembers it, and why should they? It was an abysmal series that only existed to capitalize on Idol's success. Again, in lesser hands, it could have been a great series.

I would have gone the same route as the original movie did, making it a four-year project at the same New York School of the Arts as in the movie chronicling several students as they evolve from freshmen to seniors. But that would take patience, and television execs don't have patience for anything. They want a show concept right now, which is why a lot of shows on the air seem rushed and unappealing.

Kind of like "On The Lot."

1 comment:

Dai said...

I personally find Mr. Speilberg to be rather overrated. I don't hate him, and I know that he means well for what he does, but I feel that he's given far too much shine that he doesn't deserve. Ever seen "The Lost World: Jurassic Park"? It's a stinker.

There's also a large number of films that people give him praise for, even though he had almost little to do with it outside of producing. WBA's 90s cartoons (like you said in your post) are prime examples, as well as films like "Gremlins," "Transformers," "Monster House," etc. Just mention his name in a trailer--whether he directed it or not--and you're 90% guaranteed millions in tickets.

Do I want Speilberg to disappear? No. I think he's just too overused in the industry. Hollywood needs to learn to, unless he actually had a directorial status, stop the usage of that golden name.