Network's decision to scale back ratings-challenged unscripted series to one night a week, switch hosts, and suddenly eliminate contestants off-air doesn't bode well for its future

By Lynette Rice
Updated June 05, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

It seemed like a spectacular idea: Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg and reality show mastermind Mark Burnett create a competition for aspiring movie directors. But the only spectacular thing about Fox’s On the Lot so far has been its failure in the ratings: the first night of week 1 attracted 7.6 million viewers, a whopping 70 percent drop from American Idol‘s 25.3 million lead-in. By week 2, the series earned just an average of 3.5 million viewers — and on May 31, Fox announced it would drop the live elimination episodes and condense the twice-weekly competition into one taped Tuesday-night hour. ”We’re just trekking through,” says host Adrianna Costa, who replaced Chelsea Handler on the May 28 installment. (Handler left to shoot her new E! talk show, Chelsea Lately.) Costa adds that the show — in which amateurs compete for a $1 million DreamWorks development deal — has ”a concept you have to get used to.”

But will viewers think it’s worth the trouble? Lot‘s clunky on-air adjustments aren’t helping. In addition to the host switcheroo, six of the 24 filmmakers had disappeared from the May 28 episode without explanation. (Fox calls it a ”creative decision”; Spielberg and Burnett declined to comment.) Despite all this, Fox says Lot will air through mid-August and will average one elimination per week. For now, Costa — like the network — is pinning her hopes on the show’s pedigreed producers: ”With names like Spielberg and Mark Burnett on it, you can’t go wrong.”

Additional reporting by Whitney Pastorek