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

  • American Son review

    'American Son' Set for Netflix Adaptation With Kerry Washington, Original Broadway Cast

    The Broadway play “American Son” is set to be adapted for Netflix. Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan, and Eugene Lee will reprise their roles in the Netflix production. Kenny Leon returns to direct and produce, with Jeffrey Richards and Rebecca Gold serving as producers. Washington and Pilar Savone of Washington’s Simpson Street banner will [...]

  • Anthony Scaramucci to participate in the

    Anthony Scaramucci Light on Trump Talk in 'Celebrity Big Brother' Premiere

    CBS reality show “Big Brother” loves to tell its audience to “expect the unexpected,” but things went pretty much according to the assumed with Anthony Scaramucci on the second season premiere of the celebrity edition of the show. Right from his introductory package, Scaramucci had to acknowledge he was fired from the White House, “for [...]


    Tyler Perry: 6 Lessons He Shared at NATPE's 'Living the Dream' Summit

    MIAMI — Tyler Perry took time out of his “Madea’s Farewell” live stage tour and spent his Martin Luther King Jr. holiday giving an inspiring speech to aspiring producers and students gathered here for the annual NATPE convention. Perry was the keynoter Monday at the conference’s first ever “Living the Dream: A Career in Content” session [...]

  • Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics

    Q&A: Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics While Hosting the SAG Awards

    Megan Mullally is funny. The “Will & Grace” star can also sing and dance. While she’s not picking up the Oscar hosting gig after the Kevin Hart fiasco, Mullally will take center stage on Sunday, Jan. 27 when she makes her debut as the host of the 25th annual SAG Awards. Variety caught up with [...]

  • New England Patriots running back Sony

    CBS and Fox Cheer Big Turnout for NFL Conference Championships

    Sunday’s AFC and NFC championship games were nail-biters that went into overtime and sent viewership into overdrive. CBS harvested a whopping 53.9 million viewers as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led his team to their third consecutive Super Bowl berth in a hard-fought primetime game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Viewership for the AFC [...]

  • RENT: Top L-R to Bottom L-R:

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Jan. 21, 2019: 'Rent,' 'Celebrity Big Brother'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Rent: Live” airs on Fox and “Celebrity Big Brother” returns for a second [...]

  • Black Monday: How Showtime Dusted Off

    'Black Monday': How Showtime Dusted Off An Old '80s Logo For Its New Comedy

    Cocaine’s a hell of a drug, but you’re not seeing things: That, indeed is Showtime’s old 1980s-era logo pasted all over marketing materials and promos for “Black Monday,” a tongue-in-cheek tale of the excesses exhibited by Wall Street traders in the lead-up to the stock market crash of 1987. The logo, which hasn’t been in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content