On the Lot collapses as it turns into a bad clone of an American Idol clone

I’ve been watching reality shows for 14 years, and I’ve never one take a 180 degree turn so rapidly as On the Lot did last night.

I was impressed by last week’s premiere, which merged Project Greenlight with The Apprentice, and was packaged in Mark Burnett’s signature narrative style. It wasn’t entirely original, but it was competent and fun to watch.

But now we have a bad clone of an American Idol clone. The new host, Adrianna Costa, has the most annoying hand gestures ever, always keeping her hands perfectly symmetrical, which is only mitigated by the fact that her hand motions distract us from her not-very-inviting style of shouting her ridiculous dialogue. Even the set is bad: a marquee with the show’s title in Broadway font. You have got to be kidding.

Thursday’s episode ended in a cliffhanger as the top 24 worked to create films in just one hour, but that final challenge was dismissed in a 15-second recap that showed nothing. Tonight we had 18 contestants who presented one-minute comedy films that were mostly far weaker than what we saw last week, often relying on bodily functions for laughs. Still, the judges–Carrie Fisher and Garry Marshall, plus a guest judge–seemed to be modeling themselves after Paula Abdul, praising during those rare moments when they offered criticism. And during the studio portions, the filmmakers stood around looking neutered.

What aired last week might share the same name and contestants with last night’s show, but they’re two entirely different programs. Did the low ratings scare the network or producers? Was this the plan all along? The only promising part about the whole episode were the advertisements for the third season of Hell’s Kitchen 3, which debuts next week.