Job descriptions for producers have always been murky at best, and that gray area plays to the advantage of TV Guide Channel’s entry into the reality genre — a peek behind the curtain of chaotic Hollywood productions. Neither as slick nor addictive as HBO’s “Project Greenlight” but far better than Fox’s failed “On the Lot,” “America’s Next Producer” won’t likely uncover the next Richard Zanuck, David Brown or their TV equivalent, but it amiably fills the time before the fall season begins.
Ten contestants are corralled into a local soundstage-turned-production facility and quickly sent to a taping of “Last Call With Carson Daly.” Upon arriving at NBC Studios in Burbank, they’re bubbling over with excitement, with one star-struck New Yorker particular impressed. No offense to the former MTV heartthrob, but if a set visit to “Last Call” is a career highlight at this point, this guy’s got nowhere to go but up.
With the contestants divided into five two-person teams, their assignment is to produce a one-minute man-on-the-street comic segment in front of Grauman’s Chinese and the Kodak Theater. Best bit may air on “Last Call.”
While it’s entertaining to watch these “producers” learn on the fly, it’s back at the office, where segment winners and losers are discussed, that the real fun begins, as frustrations let loose and infighting starts up almost immediately.
The judges — Fox Sports topper David Hill and TV Guide critic Matt Roush, along with host Ananda Lewis — grill each team, and, to raise the anxiety level, ask each contestant to rat out their teammate (or themselves). Each week one wannabe producer is kicked off and, by series end, a champ is crowned.
Those who fess up that they’re not worthy of moving on should be commended for their honesty but have a lot to learn. Any self-respecting producer knows the importance of pointing the finger of blame elsewhere.
Contestants range from twentysomething newbies to 46-year-old Sharon, who has plenty of producing credentials and considers herself above the fray. She can’t help but look snidely at her young competish and doles out unsolicited advice. Few listen — nor should they, as anyone with 25 years in the biz who feels the need to go on a reality show for career advancement has little grasp of the magnitude of their failures.
Due to the different TV genres — scripted, reality, news — future challenges will include everything from pre- and post-production to writing to whatever’s left in between. The eclectic mix can only make winning “Producers” contestants more well rounded.
Production values aren’t exceptional but generally get the job done. As on most reality shows, there’s a tendency to rush through certain scenes, but fitting all visual elements into an hour is always a daunting task.