On ''On the Lot,'' Jessica's submission film stands out -- but not in a good way -- while the four guys' submissions give us reason to hope next week might not be so bad

By Gregory Kirschling
Updated June 20, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Brian Bowen Smith
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”On the Lot”: Reasons to believe

Why, hello there! I’m just as gobsmacked as you are that EW is still covering this dead show. Fewer than 3 million people watched On the Lot last week. It’s beyond grim, yet somehow enough fingertips are still clicking on these TV Watches to push us here at ew.com to keep it going for you scrawny masses for at least another week. (It’s service journalism, friends, service journalism.)

Now, with that out of the way, and all joking aside, this would be the part where I tell you to not click on the TV Watch next week, so I could call up my editor Tom next Wednesday afternoon and say, ”How many page views did we get today?” and Tom would say, ”Uh, 14 — wait, that can’t be right!” and I’d say, ”Believe it, Tom! Now can we stop?” and he’d say, ”We’re done! All-night drinkathon at my house next Tuesday night!” But. But. But. We all can’t quit now! Last night finally saw the end of the everlasting three-week exercise of showing us everybody’s boring submission films. Next week at least offers the threat of something fresh — six people are gonna present ”original comedies.” I’m choosing to assume this will go down like hot movie-theater-buttered popcorn compared with the stale 99-cent deli baglets of dried onion rings Fox has been serving us for the last three weeks. Because I’ve seen a lot of uplifting underdog movies, I choose to believe that no show could stay this cobwebby and godawful for so long. Next week, On the Lot starts to pick up. Or bust.

In the meantime, there’s this week, which was a big improvement over last week but still an amateur-night haul. I hope to God that next week we get some Apprentice-style behind-the-scenes filmmaking action to break up the American Idol boredom of the current format. Oh, next week! How I can’t wait for you. Let’s roll through last night’s movies pronto.

”Glass Eye,” by Will, who’s a good guy. I don’t mind Will at all. His backstory — this is his last chance to realize his dream — is that special kind of cliché you don’t mind that much. His wife, we found out tonight, is really good-looking. His dog is cute. He makes humorous movies with names like ”Lucky Penny” and ”Glass Eye.” The only thing I don’t like about Will is the ”gee whillickers!” way he keeps goosing his eyebrows up almost every single time they point a camera at his face. Anybody else notice this? How could you not? He did it during the very first pan at the top of the hour. He did it right before his movie premiered. In between, as he does every week, he did it during the show’s slick opening-credits sequence. And for the rest of the night, he just kept doing it and doing it. Way I see it, you only get to use your eyebrows so much if you’re John Belushi. As for Will’s new movie, it was technically accomplished, one of the best of these 15, although I couldn’t figure out why the guy with the glass eye slapped himself in the face, thus setting the whole movie in motion. (Was it just to set the whole movie in motion?)

”Blood Born,” by Jason, the Southern guy who announced last night that he’s Christian and he doesn’t wanna make films with sex and violence, right before he presented us with the story of a drug dealer who gets popped in the end during a drive-by. This double-talker would do just fine in Hollywood. Or as a Republican Party officeholder, heh heh heh. Many weeks back, you may recall, Jason made ”Getta Rhoom,” the movie about a retarded guy whom Jason insisted wasn’t retarded. I laughed at that movie, and I actually didn’t mind this one. It was chortle-out-loud preposterous — the drug dealer finds out from his doctor he has miracle blood that heals the infirm (”You are a gift from God!”), then gets capped walking out of the hospital — but at least it was, unlike stuff we’ve seen from other contestants, a whole story, vaguely Twilight Zone-y and very nuts.

”Sunshine Girl,” by Zach, the F/X guy eager to prove he’s got the chops to do emotion too. An adorable little girl is playing in her room when she reaches out the window and literally plucks the sun from the sky, blanketing the whole world in apocalyptic darkness. Imperialist allegory? End-of-times disaster movie? No, just a smiley little flick about a girl who nearly destroys the universe. The visuals looked creamy, but the content didn’t scratch deep, as it would have if Zach’s man Spielberg had been directing. And the judges were right: You didn’t get at the beginning of the thing that the kid was scared of the dark. Oh, I’m just yakking to keep it interesting — Zach’s gonna win the whole season. There’s no stopping him.

”Lost,” by Mateen, who made an intimate melodrama that took place almost entirely at a restaurant table, as exes meet for dinner. This was more acting and more dialogue than we’d seen in any other movie so far, and the surprise of it was that both the acting and the dialogue weren’t too shabby, considering that the tradition of heart-on-its-sleeve African-American relationship melodrama is often a little too gloppy for my tastes. (This one ended with the dude crying in a restaurant, for Pete’s sake.) Guest judge Wes Craven was right — it didn’t make sense that the lady would invite the guy out if she was only gonna tell the poor sucker that she just got married to another man — but otherwise, Mateen did all right.

”The Orchard,” by Jessica, who, if I remember correctly, is the recent NYU film grad. Going in, I thought, ”These four guys’ movies weren’t that horrible. But America can’t kick off the only girl this week, can it?” America can, and will. Jessica’s ”horror film from a tree’s perspective” was an art-school project gone haywire — not as bad as Kenny’s film last week, I’d argue, but still hard to defend, even though Jessica and I probably like the same kind of challenging world cinema, and I think we’d make good Netflix friends.

What was most notable about Jessica’s film is that it brought out the only Simon Cowell moment we’ve seen from Carrie Fisher so far this season. Tell me if I’m wrong, but, compared with last week, when she looked and acted funereal, Carrie seemed looser from the get-go tonight — friskier, jokier, smilier, whatever — as if she’s now moved beyond the embarrassment of appearing on a high-profile failure and instead embraced the idea that she might as well dance a jig on her dark corner of the TV dial, safe since no one’s watching anyway. When Jessica’s movie was over, Carrie said, ”That was my least favorite thing next to adolescence and being left by a man for a man.” All season long I’ve been wanting the judges to get mean, but I thought that unfunny brick really clanged off the backboard, managing to make you feel embarrassed for the strafer and the strafed. I’m depressed again. My, this show just trudges along….

Until next week, when we’re due a turnaround, right? Oh wait — I almost forgot! Marty got voted off at the top of the hour last night. Great. I’m sorry to see him go. He was a cocky ass, but this show could use a cocky ass. What do you think? And how about that Adrianna Costa? Last week she showed off her breasts; last night she showed off her legs. You know what that means. Next week is midriff!

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On the Lot

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