This evening will be a strange night of television for viewers who tune in to see the finale of FOX’s On the Lot, airing tonight at 8pm on FOX. Shortened to one night and quietly eliminating contestants each week with not even the tiniest bit of fanfare, the show will pretend tonight as if none of that ever happened.
They will pretend that the show has been a huge success, that they actually bred “America’s Filmmaker,” and Steven Spielberg himself will be forced to, whether live or via satellite from the Indiana Jones set, congratulate the winner and welcome them to the fold.
This is going to be an incredibly awkward experience for Spielberg, I imagine, stepping so close to a property to which his attached name has probably been of some concern. Right now, Spielberg is probably thinking that a hugely successful On the Lot would have worked wonders: he could have had the final three filmmakers visit the set of Indiana Jones to build up some hype, maybe show a tiny bit of footage, really get the pulse of America excited about his new film.
Instead, he’ll have an audience of likely less than three million people, and no pulse to speak of. This, clearly, was not what Burnett and Spielberg imagined.
The failure of the show happened for a simple reason: even if its individual episodes proved entertaining, there was not enough incentive for people watching to become emotionally invested in these people. On American Idol, they can buy their records and listen to them on the radio. In the case of On the Lot, they might eventually theoretically see a film directed, not even starring, them.
There’s no emotional attachment to be had there; there is pretty well no reason to become a “fan” of someone who by all accounts you might never see again. The show has other problems: Garry Marshall’s sexist diatribes, Carrie Fisher’s lack of anything interesting or consistent to say, a rather random assortment of guest judges from the Spielberg family, etc. But in the end, the inability for people to care is what killed the show dead.
So tonight, for a brief moment, Steven Spielberg will appear on a program that is an abject failure, especially after they dumped Zack from the competition a few weeks back. One filmmaker’s life will be changed, no doubt, but the other contestants won’t even get their 15 minutes of reality fame. And that, really, is the greatest shame of all.