AMC, which dips its toe into the original programming waters only sparingly, surfaces here with a highly stylized, handsomely crafted and breezily clever four-part comedy/drama series that cynically skewers Hollywood’s star-making studio system of the 1930s. The fact that “The Lot” is cartoonishly overacted adds juice to the show’s camp irreverence, whether or not the scenery-chewing is intentional. Regardless, its creator-writer-exec producer Rick Mitz has clear affection for — and a sure grasp of — his subject.
The quartet of half-hours plays like a miniseries, its continuing story exposing intertwined ironies, excesses and comeuppances among the vain, the ambitious and the depthless on one fictitious Hollywood movie lot in 1937. Show works to seamlessly blend fact and fiction, playing off actual news events and personalities of the era.
While “The Lot” sometimes stretches credibility in seeking to remain true to that reality, to attempt it at all is a profound conceit worthy of kudos.
Chief storyline follows the unlikely rise and inevitable corruption of a 17-year-old starlet named June Parker (a sharp performance from Linda Cardellini), daughter of a longtime studio makeup artist (Stephanie Faracy). June is plucked from obscurity and designated as Hollywood’s next “It” Girl, following in the footsteps of Clara Bow a decade before.
Kingmaker Harry Sylver (scene-stealing work by Allen Garfield), the deep-pocketed, deeply self-involved head of Sylver Screen Pictures, and his sleazeball studio publicist Jack Sweeney (Perry Stephens) use blackmail to convince June’s mother to sign the parental consent agreement for her underage daughter, and before you know it, the starstruck June is prepping for stardom as the lead in the big-big production “Call Me Veronica Blaire.”
As a way to hype the new star, a flunky production assistant/would-be writer named Charlie Patterson (Steven Petrarca) suggests a faux studio bidding war for June’s services floated in the newspaper gossip columns.
The four half-hour teleplays penned by Mitz and co-producer Barbara Romen depict with wicked candor the innards of a place called Hollywood, “a sunny place with shady people — where the stars twinkle ’til they wrinkle.”
The characters in this bleak tragicomedy also include an anal studio treasurer (Jeffrey Tambor), a lecherous, oily business mogul (Jonathan Frakes), an expert stylist (Francois Giroday), a pathetic aging diva (Sara Botsford) and a Hedda Hopper-like Hollywood gossip columnist (Holland Taylor). Rue McClanahan and Eric Stoltz also appear in cameos.
All of the performers ham it up onscreen with abandon. Helmer Guy Ferland delivers the goods with a smooth hand, assisted by Terrence Foster’s flawless production design. Rest of tech credits sparkle.