''On the Lot'': Sure, the short comedies this week were brand new -- but that doesn't mean they were all good

By Gregory Kirschling
Updated June 27, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Brian Bowen Smith
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”On the Lot”: New, but not improved

To quote the bard Adrianna Costa: ”All right, America, get ready.” We are gonna rip through last night’s On the Lot semi-quickly. Why? Because yours truly is currently on a week and a half’s worth of summer vacation. And all’s that keeping me from my piña colada is this show and a sense of affection for anyone looking to keep making fun of it in the message boards below. Of course I woulda looked around for a replacement writer this week, except that I wouldn’t wish this program on even my least-favorite coworker. And it’s not like anybody else at EW’s still watching anyway. So let’s go.

Last week I expected this show to start getting better this week. It did, slightly. But mostly it did not. A month in, we’ve finally moved beyond the submission films our mini-von Sternbergs coughed out before they even got on the show; note the pains Costa took at the top of the hour to tell us that we were in for six short comedies shot, edited, coughed out, etc. in the last five days. Fine. Fresh is good. But the American Idol format, which is almost surely around for good, has effectively doomed this show. How much of the prime-time television season are we gonna spend watching cheeseball two-minute movies that wouldn’t get a second click on YouTube? Are we looking for the next great movie director, or the next okay TV-commercial director? And as for the freshness factor: I realized last night that a corny movie is a corny movie whether it got made five months or five days ago. Here are last night’s newly birthed corny movies:

”Doctor-in-Law,” by Shalini, whose Miss America smile plays so fake during her face-offs with the judges that she comes across as potentially evil when in fact she is probably pretty nice. You had to feel for her when the introduction to her movie ended with her actor ragging on her (”She doesn’t know what she wants”) and her moaning ”This is not wur-rrr-king!” right before the camera cut to her live as she tried to smile through the humiliation. Yet she persevered. Her movie was about a male pair of in-laws at the doctor’s office; it contained a few not-bad chuckles. ”But don’t push it,” I thought, when she sassed guest judge and Mean Girls director Mark Waters after he suggested an extra scene. ”Hard to do in two minutes, but thanks!” she said with that crazy smile, no doubt inspired by the won’t-back-down moxie of the departed fightin’ Irish, Marty Martin. Dude’s legacy lives on.

”Discovering the Wheels,” by Adam. If cavemen discovering a convertible and calling out ”shotgun!” in caveman-ese is funny, then so is this movie. I’m with Carrie here; she started out with compliments delivered with a grimace, which always means she’s about to chuck an anvil with a sentence beginning ”In the end I’m not exactly sure…,” accompanied by copious arm gestures. Garry helpfully pointed out that Adam’s actors were all playing two parts, which totally eluded my caveman brain the first time I watched it.

”Nerve Endings,” by Will, who attacked his forehead with his popping eyebrows fewer times than usual last night. That was much appreciated, though at the same time it finally became clear what the Harold Lloyd mugging thing is about: Can Will make a movie that actually has words in it? Like Carrie pointed out last week, he makes silent movies, and ”Nerve Endings” was his latest, an operating-room piece of slapstick that started out sick but funny but then careened into flopping-around ridiculousness. Will’s got a gift for graceful comedic innocence, but this one got out of hand. (1) If that really was Reginald VelJohnson again as the doc, how can you deny us the opportunity to hear Captain Al Powell’s melodious instrument in full flower?, and (2) if everybody’s on Zach’s case to make a movie without special effects, shouldn’t somebody force Will to make a movie with dialogue in it?

”Under the Gun,” by Hilary, who, since arriving on the show, has made one awful movie about peeing on a bus, and now another about a mom and daughter robbing a sperm bank. Somewhere, Spielberg is beaming. Painful. But the judges cheered it, I think just to create comeback drama for the underdog.

”How to Have a Girl,” by David, who’s nondescript. His ”sex comedy” is about a couple. For reasons too boring to describe, the lady (yes, that was Tatyana Ali, all grown up from her days on Fresh Prince!) really wants to be on top; so does the guy. So they wrestle half-naked all over the bedroom. The highlight was definitely when the man had the lady pinned and he yelled, ”Not if I have anything to say about it!” while subtly thrusting upward. What to say to that — ”Go ahead, fella, rape her good!”? Jason’s ”Ghetta Rhoom” from weeks back wasn’t offensive, accidentally or otherwise. But this was.

”Die Hardly Working,” by Zach, who made an office-war movie with a clever title but no special effects. He used sound effects instead. That’s neatly subversive of him. Carrie beamed up at him like he’d just won an Oscar, but I’m convinced too this guy deserves to win. Zach speaks the language of film more fluently than anybody else here.

And oh yeah, Jessica got booted for her tree movie last week. At least she’ll live on in the opening credits sequence, saucily chomping at the camera. That little bit is more erotic than anything we saw in David’s sex comedy. But it’s a toss-up: I want America to vote off Hilary and David so we get to the end a week sooner. Don’t you?

What do you think? Don’t you wish the producers would can that bit where Adrianna goes over to awkwardly tower over and banter with the guest judge in his plush seat? She looks like a stripper getting ready for a lap dance.

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