Thursday, June 21, 2007

I hate reality TV.

Which my girlfriend Adelphia points out is ironic considering it's how I earn a living these days. I still say most of it is crap. As the great Ernie Kovacs said, “Television - a medium. So called because it is neither rare nor well-done.”

And today every show is trying to be like “American Idol”, which is like Ashlee Simpson getting plastic surgery to look more like Jessica. Cookie cutting something that just might’ve been interesting to make it conventionally prettier, a.k.a. friggin’ boring.

So I’m not as eloquent as Ernie Kovacs. And sorry to use the Simpson sisters in a simile.

Here’s my point: “On the Lot”. It sucks, but unlike most of the shows Adelphia wants me to watch, I admit I kinda like it.

They keep changing the format, but never dispose of the sappy contestant biographies (“This is my one shot... gotta go all the way... do it for my poor third-cousin Timmy who fell down the well...”) or the awful artificial drama. (“America has voted and the next person to screen their film... will be revealed after the commercial!”)

What’s interesting to me is watching the works of the filmmakers. Some of them exhibit genuine talent, but others make me wonder how they even got on that show.

After seeing some of the contestants’ stupid shorts, I was tempted to show Adelphia a video of scenes I shot in film school. But I had to turn it off as soon as my poorly directed images came onto the screen. So who am I to talk smack?

But that’s part of the appeal of these shows -- we all get to be armchair critics. I cut the cast some slack, knowing it’s real easy to criticize (and as Homer Simpson says: “Fun, too!”). I mean, I can argue how the beat-box boy on “American Idol” can’t really keep a tune, but if I were to audition, Simon Cowell would rightfully tell me to get the hell off stage. Paula Abdul would tell me I’m great, but she says that to everyone. But I know not to audition, and it’s not just to avoid being anywhere near that creepy Ryan Seacrest.

So if the contestants of “On the Lot” think they’re worthy of us watching them vie for a deal with Spielberg, they better be damn good. But that's not always the case. And you know why? A lot of 'em don’t how to tell a story.

Sometimes they overcome that problem with dazzling special effects, cool cinematography, scatological subjects, or controversy over whether their lead character was a nerd or a retard.

In film school, most of the shorts done by writers like myself had decent concepts, but poor execution, hence the awful video I refused to watch again. On the other hand, the directors' shorts looked fantastic, but were conceptionally crapola. I think many of the contestants of "On the Lot" fit into the latter category.

This was most apparent in an early episode where they had to pitch a movie idea to the judges. They were already given the concept, all they had to do was flesh out the idea. They only had 24 hours to do it, but what else did they have to do? While they were filming these episodes, it’s not like they had to hold down their day jobs.

Yet some schmoes couldn’t come up with anything. One guy got voted off for freezing up on stage and crying about it later. Another was ejected for flinging himself around, giving a flail instead of a tale.

And when the judges did like a pitch... I didn't understand why. No story, no conflict, no nothing. What drugs was Carrie Fisher on that night?

See, this is where I do feel like I have some right to complain. I can't sing, cook, celebrity-impersonate, and no, I don't think I can dance. But I have gone on pitch meetings with film studio execs, and it's nothing like the bullshit they showed during "On the Lot". Wanna hear about it? I'll take a cue from these stupid shows by announcing that I'll write all about my pitching experiences... the next post.


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