Carriefisher_onthelot_240So I watched On the Lot on Monday (May 28) night so that we’d have things to talk about, dear readers.

The only problem is that none of you watched with me.

The audience for the first Monday night airing of On the Lot was small. All together now: How small was it? I don’t have a punchline here, actually. It averaged fewer than 2.9 million viewers, a figure so low that not only would a House repeat have performed better (that goes without saying), but FOX would have gotten better ratings with an episode of Drive. Or Justice. Or even Vanished. That’s LOW.

And this isn’t one of those situations where it might be wise to let On the Lot find its audience. That’s not going to happen. The show stinks.

Problem No. 1: Aspiring filmmakers are an insufferable lot, far worse than aspiring models, singers or even chefs. And I say that even though, as a film school grad myself, some of my best friends are aspiring filmmakers. But when an On the Lot contestant like Marty Martin turns in an obnoxiously derivative one-minute trailer as his comedy film and then claims that the filmmaker he most compares himself to is "Marty Martin," somebody at FOX must be banging their head against a brick wall.

Problem No. 2: It’s certainly possible to find a good student or amateur film, particularly in this age of digital video and easily accessible editing technology. But few things in life are less pleasant than watching 18 student films in a two-hour period. Even best case scenario, you’re going to get a qualitative ratio like a dozen viewers saw on Monday: One or two really good films, three or four films with excellent concepts or executions (but not both), five entirely mediocre films and 10 awful films.

Problem No. 3: If you walk into a room and sing for one minute, I have a pretty good idea of whether or not you have a good voice. If you bring me your five photo portfolio, I have a decent gauge of whether or not you can be a model. After a couple meals, I can tell if you can cook. But making the greatest one-minute comedy in the history of the universe doesn’t make you a good filmmaker. Making 10 one-minute films in every genre imaginable barely reaches the tip of the iceberg toward proving if you have the ability to make a two-hour movie.

Problem No. 4: The prize sounds good, but it’s total bunk. OK, a million dollar anything is pretty sweet, but DreamWorks doesn’t really greenlight very many movies, particularly since it got folded into Paramount. As few movies as DreamWorks greenlights, the number of movies that go forward without a name like Steven Spielberg or Michael Bay or Peter Jackson attached is so small it’s a statistical anomaly. The winner will get a million dollars and a year to sit in an office and write, but nobody’s getting the chance to make a DreamWorks movie out of this show, particularly given its ratings.

Some quick thoughts on Monday’s screened comedies:

The Good: Zach Lipovsky’s The Danger Zone was the only short I felt inclined to go online to vote for. I liked the concept for Shira-Lee Shalit’s The Check-Out, the simplicity of Will Bigham’s Lucky Penny and the visual flair of Phil Hawkins’ Please Hold.

The Bad: I already mentioned Marty Martin’s The Big Bad Heist, which was neither a comedy nor a short film and therefore should probably merit his immediate elimination anyway. Kenny Luby’s Wack Alley Cab played less as a parody of late-night local access commercials and more as the obnoxious thing itself. And Jessica Brillhart managed to bungle a simple lightbulb joke.

The Ugly: In Jason Epperson’s Ghetta Rhoom, a mentally handicapped man is mocked, beaten up, hit by a car and sent to hell. The filmmaker told the judges that the main character was just supposed to be a nerd. Oh. That makes it funny?

The Just-Plain-Weird: This goes to the judges, who seemed hard-pressed to offer any kind of constructive criticism. It was particularly awkward to watch Garry Marshall tell every female contestant that they should only make gender-specific movies. That, Garry, is the kind of thinking that keeps your sister Penny from being able to make movies in Hollywood.

Did anybody else watch last night’s show? Thoughts? And if you didn’t watch, why aren’t you watching?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg