You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

On the Lot

There's a degree of irony in the ample time devoted to the art of pitching creative ideas in "On the Lot," since it's hard to imagine this ill-conceived Fox reality show was sold on anything more than the "Steven Spielberg meets Mark Burnett" marquee billing.

Host: Chelsea Handler.
Judges: Carrie Fisher, Garry Marshall, Brett Ratner.

There’s a degree of irony in the ample time devoted to the art of pitching creative ideas in “On the Lot,” since it’s hard to imagine this ill-conceived Fox reality show was sold on anything more than the “Steven Spielberg meets Mark Burnett” marquee billing. This awkward mish-mash owes as much to Burnett’s “The Apprentice” as to the little-seen “Project Greenlight,” and the premiere’s weak opening ratings, despite an “American Idol” lead-in Tuesday, don’t bode well for a boffo network run.

Unwieldy in both template and execution, “On the Lot” is another competition formula that began with a staggering 50 contestants and whittled them down by only 15 or so over the first hour. The sheer tonnage prevented developing much interest in any of the hopefuls or gaining a sense regarding what about their film shorts earned them a “trip to Hollywood” among 12,000 submissions.

Instead, we saw them loaded onto a bus (if only the damn thing had to go faster than 50 miles an hour) and taken on the Universal Studios tour (whoopee), where they were briefed by host Chelsea Handler before being handed over to judges Garry Marshall, Carrie Fisher and Brett Ratner.

What, Spielberg couldn’t be troubled to say hello at least? It’s not like he has a long pedestrian commute from Amblin.

The introduction gave way to a sort-of audition process pitching a variety of predetermined script ideas, before splitting into groups to produce short films in — get ready, “Apprentice” fans — a mere 24 hours. The last survivor will receive a $1 million development deal at DreamWorks, or roughly the craft-services budget on “Transformers.”

Frankly, the judges’ banter is the show’s only semi-distinctive element, but the whole exercise begins from a flawed supposition — that people are so fascinated with the moviemaking process itself, they simply can’t get enough. There’s also something slightly off-putting about the level of self-aggrandizement underlying the premise — the reminder that Hollywood isn’t quite as simple for silly, star-struck novices as it might look.

Even with tougher-than-usual “Dancing With the Stars” competition, the precipitous drop in the second half-hour suggests viewers pounced for the remote like a raptor in “Jurassic Park.” And while summer ratings expectations are relatively modest, unless ratings improve or at minimum stabilize quickly, Burnett’s latest twist on the dog-eat-dog competition format could saddle the genre with another high-profile failure.

The looming question, then, is how long Fox will sit tight before it either yells “Cut” or moves “Lot” from TV’s multiplex to its arthouse circuit. Given the producing stars involved, that backstage jockeying may actually be the best drama this show can muster.

On the Lot

Fox, Tue. May 22, 9:03 p.m.

Production: Produced by Mark Burnett Prods., DreamWorks Television and Amblin Television. Executive producers, Mark Burnett, Steven Spielberg, David Goffin cq; co-executive producers, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank; supervising producers, Andrew Frank, Nancy Gunn; producers, Dana Buning, Zach Green; director, Michael A. Simon; writer, Dan Perry.

Crew: Camera, Jay Hunter; production design, David Weller; music, Jeff Lippencott, Mark T. Williams; casting producer, Michelle McNulty. Running time: 60 MIN.

Cast: Host: Chelsea Handler.
Judges: Carrie Fisher, Garry Marshall, Brett Ratner.

More TV

  • Chuck LorreVariety Innovate Summit, Presented by

    Chuck Lorre Talks Streaming Vs. Broadcast, WGA-Agency Battle at Innovate Summit

    With “The Kominsky Method,” Chuck Lorre ventured out of his broadcast comedy comfort zone and took a leap into the world of streaming, an unknown quantity for him. During a keynote conversation at the Variety Innovate summit, held Thursday at the 1 Hotel in West Hollywood, Lorre talked about how making a show for a [...]

  • Jason Segel as Peter, Eve Lindley

    TV News Roundup: AMC Announces 'Dispatches From Elsewhere' Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, “Dispatches From Elsewhere” starring Jason Segel has been scheduled for a two-night premiere date and Netflix released a teaser for Season 2 of “You.” CASTINGS Briana Cuoco has been cast in HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant” in the recurring role of Cecilia. The series details the chilling story of a flight [...]

  • Supergirl -- "Crisis on Infinite Earths:

    'Arrowverse' Boss Breaks Down Journey to 'Crisis on Infinite Earths'

    It’s an event nearly 500 hours in the making when the “Arrowverse” and fellow CW superhero series “Black Lightning” collide in the five-part epic crossover event, “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Inspired by the iconic graphic novel by the same name, “Crisis on Infinite Earths” finds the “Arrowverse” heroes — including Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), The [...]

  • Rich Battista

    Imagine Entertainment CEO Rich Battista Exits After Less Than Four Months

    Rich Battista, the recently boarded chief executive of Imagine Entertainment, has exited his post at the production company after joining but a few months ago in August, Variety has learned. “Rich Battista has left Imagine Entertainment,” said Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the founders of the company, in a joint statement. “We thank Rich for [...]

  • Lamia Chraïbi Teams With Hicham Lasri

    Lamia Chraibi Teams With Hicham Lasri on Pan-Arab Supernatural Series 'Meskoun' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Lamia Chraibi, a leading producer of daring films from the Middle East and North Africa region, is developing “Meskoun,” an ambitious pan-Arab genre-bending series with Moroccan filmmaker Hicham Lasri (“Jahilya”) on board as showrunner. Chraibi (“Mimosas”) will produce the 14-episode series with her Moroccan banner La Prod, along with Mohamed Hefzy’s Egyptian company Film Clinic, [...]

  • Kevin CostnerKevin Costner, who stars in

    Kevin Costner Sets National Parks Investigative Services Branch Drama at ABC

    “Yellowstone” star Kevin Costner is expanding his television universe to include a whole lot more national parks. Variety has learned that the Oscar winner has set up a one-hour drama project at ABC about the Investigative Services Branch of the National Parks Service. Costner is co-writing the series with showrunner Aaron Helbing and will also [...]

  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

    'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Team on a 'Brand New Chapter' in Season 3

    If Midge Maisel wants to be successful as a standup comedian, her portrayer Rachel Brosnahan says, “she’s going to have to give up her personal life. She’s going to have to go at it alone.” The second season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” ended with Brosnahan’s 1950s housewife-turned-comic, character getting the opportunity of a lifetime [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content