By Michael Slezak
Updated April 07, 2006 at 05:55 PM EDT
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It’s hard for me to imagine Fox cooking up anything as addictive as American Idol (perhaps because I’m still in therapy to try to suppress flashbacks of American Juniors). That said, On the Lot, its new Steven Spielberg-produced reality series, might be the perfect way for the network to duplicate Idol‘s ratings magic during its June-January absence.

The premise has got me salivating like a Pavlovian canine: Sixteen amateur filmmakers get split into teams to produce a weekly short film in a particular genre (sci-fi, romantic comedy, action, etc.). The public votes on which one they like best, and the director of the movie with the lowest number of votes gets ejected. What’s interesting is that the teams will apparently be able to utilize seasoned writers, crew members, and actors (paging Lisa Rinna!) in their projects.

While the premise sounds slightly similar to HBO’s defunct Project Greenlight, I’m hoping On the Lot steers clear of behind-the-scenes drama and instead focuses on the end product. After all, when it comes time to shell out my $10.50, I care a lot less about the director’s personal predilections than I do about his or her storytelling skills. Other important considerations: Who’ll comprise the three-person judges panel that’s expected to include a Hollywood exec and a film critic? How much involvement will Spielberg have himself? Could he be On the Lot‘s version of Project Runway‘s silver-fox mentor Tim Gunn? And on that note, will the On the Lot‘s producers test the filmmakers’ creativity by limiting what they can use/do in creating their opuses?

Either way, I’ll be looking forward to it when the show airs sometime in the 2006-2007 season. How ’bout you, PopWatchers?

addCredit(“Steven Spielberg: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage.com”)

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