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.
It is no coincidence that the two shows that have tied for the Summer TV Wrapup recognition of The Biggest Flop have something in common. Mark Burnett created Survivor and The Apprentice, and immediately rocketed into the upper echelon of reality TV producers. He’s the only one who is a personality, a character in his own way. While this usually helps him, it has actually made his fall from grace this summer all the more damaging. Pirate Master (CBS) and On the Lot (FOX), two sure-fire hits, flopped this summer, and Mark Burnett is the man to hold accountable for that fact.
Pirate Master suffered from the very beginning from both poor ratings and a lack of cultural buzz. While the show was not terrible, it was criminally derivative: it didn’t deviate far enough from the Survivor formula to bring in new viewers, and its failure proves that people aren’t watching Survivor because of its quality but rather because it’s Survivor.
The show was cancelled 2/3rds of the way through its run, and will spend the remainder of its time on CBS.com. The show never had the personality, never had the host, and never had the magic touch we’re used to seeing from Mark “Midas” Burnett. In failing to live up to that pedigree, it was by far one of the summer’s biggest flops.
Cultural Learnings’ Summer “Pirate Master” Coverage
On the Lot, meanwhile, had all the pedigree you’d usually need: Burnett was not only attached as producer, but so was legendary director Steven Spielberg. It was supposed to be FOX’s buzzworthy summer hit, but they forgot something very important: the summer viewing audience aren’t movie geeks.
‘On The Lot’ Cuts Back
If you turn on FOX tonight looking for a new one-hour installment of ‘On the Lot’, you’ll be disappointed. Thanks to extremely poor ratings, the series will be cut back to a single hour-long segment each week to air at 8pm on Tuesdays. Reruns of House, FOX’s only real rerunnable series, will air on Mondays for the foreseeable future ahead of returning reality series ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ (Debuting tonight at 9pm).
There is no official word on how Burnett and Co. are going to turn a results show into both a presentation and a result show, but magically it will happen. Personally, I think they should ditch the audience vote altogether and have the judges make the decisions based on screenings of the films. It would make a hell of a lot more sense, and get a lot better filmmakers in the process. We’ll find out tomorrow night, regardless, when ‘On the Lot’ returns to see if it can make a go of it.
ABC, FOX Pilots Find New Life
While Upfront season is long over, it appears that, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the drama is just beginning for two high-profile pilots from the creative teams behind two cult-favourites: Arrested Development’s Mitch Hurwitz and Battlestar Galactica’s David Eick.
Hurwitz is behind “The Thick of It”, a pilot about a congressman dealing with his new surroundings that is based on a British sitcom. The pilot found no traction at ABC, who went with Cavemen instead (Ugh), but it is apparently seeing life in both fans of Hurwitz’ work and fans of British comedy adaptations. Showtime, fans of Hurwitz ever since they attempted to acquire Arrested Development for a 4th season, want to work with him and even bid on the pilot before ABC nabbed it. NBC, meanwhile, is in the running since new boss Ben Silverman was responsible for The Office (US) and is therefore seeing a strong future for a similar adaptation. HBO is apparently also considering it.
I posted over the weekend the following statement about FOX’s new reality series ‘On the Lot’:
As we head into the finalist-segment of the show where people will compete on a weekly basis, the show is in jeopardy of being cancelled and being replaced by repeats of House and ‘Til Death. I believe that the show deserves to continue as its real format that will be followed for the rest of the year has yet to be revealed. However, it needs to pull itself together and emphasize the product that it is creating. That website is worthwhile, interesting: I can only hope that the show, at some point, becomes the same.
Well, last night in a two-hour extravaganza, we saw what that final format was. And, I think the general consensus is that it was a soul-sucking, awful, derivative version of American Idol with little to no understanding of the show’s true qualities. It had a number of different problems, all of which are the result of simply poor execution on the part of producers.
So, at some point in the Fall of last year Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett announced a reality show. This pairing is pretty powerful, or was at the time anyways. Since that point, Burnett has actually lost some of his lustre with an atrocious season of The Apprentice and the further decline of Survivor. And, while Spielberg remains Spielberg, one wonders how he’d have time for the series between movies and his new venture into video fames. So, as we moved closer to the series’ late Spring launch, I guess you could say that expectations had cooled.
And for good reason: the show ‘On The Lot’ became, in its first weeks, was an American Idol-style boot camp with group activities, eliminations, and a misplaced focus on the drama of it all instead of the product of that drama. In other words, these first few weeks have been a bit of a mess in terms of reality television production…but it is my belief that we should stick with this show. Because the product of that drama is actually kind of cool.