Mark Burnett improves on The Apprentice with the addictive On the Lot

I usually don’t get addicted to reality shows after the first episode, but after one hour of FOX’s new series On the Lot, it’s clear that summer has its most watchable new show.

Mark Burnett’s new series manages to make his other series, The Apprentice, and its star, Donald Trump, completely irrelevant. While On the Lot strikes the same overall tone as the NBC show–the shots of Los Angeles and the score feel very familiar, especially after the LA Apprentice–the content is a lot different. This show doesn’t need a blowhard making arbitrary decisions about mostly pointless tasks.

Instead, On the Lot takes more of a Project Runway approach, giving talented people telegenic tasks to test their skills. Last night, the 50 semi-finalists had to pitch a film using a one-line description of it to three judges; later, they had to form three-person teams to create a short film. Because the show so far values success over drama, they were just able to pick teams, rather than being assigned to each other in some arbitrary or manipulative way. That’s not to say there’s not plenty of drama, because there is; so far, that consists of conflict between the type-A directors who have to work in groups of three.

Eventually, when the contestants are narrowed to 18, the show will take a bit of an American Idol turn, when viewers start voting for their favorite one-minute films. But even though last night’s eliminations stole directly from FOX’s other show when the semi-finalists were eliminated by row, it’s hard to imagine the new series devolving into an Idol-like spectacle, with a screaming audience of morons. On the Lot is definitely one to watch.

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.