In part 1 of its big finale, ''On the Lot'' presents films we've already seen

By Gregory Kirschling
Updated August 15, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

”On the Lot”: No news is bad news

I tuned in to On the Pot this week intending to say something — anything — upbeat, constructive, and pleasant. ”If Carrie Fisher can pretend to be really impressed by these movies,” I thought, firing up the DVR, ”well, then, so can I.”

Oh man, too late! Can you believe it? For once, the show wasn’t mostly about Adrianna’s breasts, which were elegantly tucked away last night. Instead, it was about cojones, as in the producers’, since they dared to give us a series finale (part 1!) that was essentially a recap/clip show.

For those who didn’t tune in (all 300 million of you), there were no new movies last night. Sam got booted in the opening moments, and then Adam, Jason, and Will ”competed” by picking two of their previous seven shorts and then presenting those to us all over again. That’s what we’re supposed to vote on to pick a winner next week. (How on earth is that show going to last an hour, or even a half hour?)

Deep down, I was fine with it. For once, like a normal On the Lot watcher, I got to fast-forward through most of the episode too. But, for serious: WTF? You people like the show more than I do: Please, defend this one. I mean, c’mon now, weren’t all you On the Lot apologists at least a tad angrier at your TVs last night than you typically are at me on Wednesday mornings?

Without a doubt, what happened is Fox crunched the numbers and realized that if they were really gonna have a million bucks left over to give to whoever actually wins this abysmally rated show next week, they were gonna have to scrimp and save in the home stretch. No matter the expense, what they should’ve done is what some of you have been calling for since the first couple of weeks. They should’ve made these three guys direct the exact same script. Then we might’ve intuited interesting things about what a director really does. I’ve been waiting to see an experiment like that on a big scale my whole movie-going life, for real! A move like that could have been so revealing that it might have redeemed some of the season, and taught us all to look at cinema in a whole new way, and Fox could’ve filled out the hour by having the boys pick just one of their previous movies to remind America how visionary they were.

But nope. We watched reruns and listened to the three guys give pat, boring answers to pat, boring filler questions from Adrianna, Carrie, and Garry. ”Will,” said Carrie. ”Tell us why you want to be a director.” And Will replied, ”This is what I’m supposed to be doing. When I get behind that camera, I can see all the pieces, and I know exactly how they’re supposed to move.” If only Will had gone on to say this, sort of like another famous Will before him: ”Beethoven, Mozart, they looked at a piano, and they could just play. I couldn’t paint you a picture, I probably can’t hit the ball out of Fenway, and I can’t play the piano, but when it comes to [plain ol’ making movies, sweet cheeks], I could always just play.” As it was, real-life Will was not quite so stirring, although at least last night he was slyer about invoking the fate of his children as a reason you should cast your vote for him.

Will’s gonna win next week, isn’t he? I didn’t think Jason had much of a shot, but then he started tearing up at all the right moments last night. That, and he seems to have adroitly finagled the Southern/we-hate-Hollywood vote no less cunningly than Will has commandeered the ”Don’t make me come to resent my needy kids” vote. Which leaves Adam. What’s his story? If you’ll recall, I think he told us at the beginning of the summer about how he dropped out of Harvard Law to go be a filmmaker, but since then, he’s been content to — d’oh! — sit back and let his films speak for themselves. Dude, it’s a popularity contest, not a filmmaking competition! I worry for the guy next week.

As for who should win, uh, I have no strong feelings. I think Zach, offed last week, was so obviously the one who would have done the most with a million-dollar handshake from Spielberg. As for the three we were left with last night, not one of them picked what I thought were their best films throughout the season. I enjoyed the sick chutzpah of Jason’s first film, ”Getta Rhoom.” ”Danceman” was Adam’s breeziest and most accomplished work. Those might’ve been my two favorite movies of the season. But I guess I’d give the million bucks to Will. No movie by any director this season was a knockout; many were dogs, including a few by Jason and Adam and Will. But Will’s films — like his best, that Pixar-lamp love story — probably hung most comfortably in a safe middle space appropriate to this middling show: They were never awesome, but they were never truly horrible either. I guess he showed the most consistency of vision — and, yeah, I’d feel bad voting against his kids.

Anyway, can’t wait for next week. Adrianna promised us that Spielberg’s gonna be showing up in person, handcuffed to a briefcase full of $1000 bills. What’ll that be like, seeing a megastar like him on a megabomb like this? Imagine Angelina Jolie popping up on Supermarket Sweep, and maybe you’re halfway there. See you at my house for the finale; somebody bring dip.

Until then, what do you say? Who wins this? And who cares? Nobody really answered my questions about Jack Nicholson last week. Cuckoo’s Nest is his best performance, but his work as Badass Buddusky in The Last Detail is a close second, yeah?