Hello, and welcome to America’s Next Producer! Now, I know what you might be thinking at this very moment:
“Wait a minute! A producer? What’s that? Isn’t that what Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder were?”
No, quiet—you are too old to speak.
“Well . . . is it what Nathan Lane and Ferris Bueller were?”
No, quiet—you are too young to speak.
“Wait, is that the guy that signs checks because he looks good in a suit?”
No, that is an executive producer. See? The show opens by proclaiming that “Not a lot of people in America know what a producer does,” and since many of us watching the show live in one or more United State of America (I’m in a rectangley one), this will be a fabulous educational experience for us all. According to host Ananda Lewis, becoming a producer takes “vision, passion, and connections . . . UNTIL NOW.” That’s really how she said it. So, ten footloose and fancy-free hopefuls are here with the chance to—apparently without vision, passion, or talent—win an exclusive first-look deal with TV Guide, an office in Hollywood, Apple’s Final Cut Studio program, and $100,000. But, most importantly, they will receive the right to call themselves, before God and man, America’s Next Producer.
So, let’s meet our ten protagonists, who now descend into LAX airport:
Adam is a youngish comedy writer and producer, who makes a crack about making a documentary on luggage carousels. Hey, if he’d get on and ride it beyond the rubber curtains, he’d have my vote to win. It’s probably like Willy Wonka’s factory back there.
Gwen says she probably has the least experience, and she is a “web producer.” A half-hearted arachnid joke probably goes here; I’ve got bills to pay.
Zo is the recipient of 15 regional Emmys, which seems like nothing to sneeze at.
Schliz has worked with the people behind Jackass, and he looks kind of like a surrogate member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. (Not River Phoenix, though.)
Lindsay is here to take the world by storm and pitch her ideas NOW!
Jessica had to make some marginal sacrifices to make it to this point, such as her job and, you know, her husband.
Daniel has been involved in TV news, but is looking to branch out. Most importantly, he was the semi-transparent ghost at the top of the pile of TVs that has been on the upper right-hand corner of your screen:
Bradley, in addition to producing, also dabbles in writing and directing. (I know it’s a lot of things to keep straight, but stay with me now, Americans!)
Evie says she meets challenges in unique ways and often has hair in her face.
And, finally, Sharon is a VETERAN producer. Remember this point, as it is important, but if you forget, you will probably be reminded. But, yes, since she is a VETERAN producer, I can only assume that she has many producer purple hearts and lead our boys to stunning production victories back in ‘Nam.
I Totally Request this of You, Live
Our adventure begins with a field trip to an undisclosed location to meet an undisclosed “old friend” of Ananda’s. I was hoping they’d meet R.K. Maroon of Maroon Cartoons, but they end up at the NBC lot and meet Jamie, the stage manager. I guess he’s important, because he gets his name shown on the screen, and he might be Ananda’s friend, but it looks as though he’s really just the middle man who leads them to real-life producer David Friedman and Carson Daly!
I have to admit that my familiarity with Carson Daly is rather lacking. I always turn off his show after I’m done watching Conan, but I am 98% sure that he was the guy you’d call if you wanted to hear “Larger than Life” again on MTV circa 1999, and, frankly, who didn’t?
Carson and David Friedman detail the particulars for the contestants’ first challenge:
- They must put together a one-minute comedic “field piece,” which is the sort of sketch where someone such as Carson/Conan/Carnon goes out into the world and proceeds to be wacky among the plebian masses. Carson’s “Elevator Interviews” is given as an example.
- They have three hours to shoot and five hours to edit.
- They are provided with gear (camera, boom mike), and there is a table of props nearby.
- The contestants are divided into teams of two, getting stuck with whomever is standing to their left.
The teams end up as: Bradley and Gwen, Daniel and Zo, Sharon and Lindsay, Schliz and Evie, and Jessica and Adam.
Los Angeles, A Carnival of Human Cruelty
As the producers arrive on Busystreet, LA, Adam is nervous right off the bat, because comedy is the genre in which he ultimately hopes to work. He would love to produce a skit for Last Call, and he doesn’t want to screw it up in the premiere task. Brad and Gwen write their motto, KISS, on a piece of paper, so they can remember to “keep it simple, stupid!” Nonetheless, there will always be the stalwart decriers who insist that it really does mean “Knights In Satan’s Service.”
Jessica has the brilliant idea to make their sketch about underwear, because . . . tee hee . . . nobody talks openly about underwear! That’s just OUTRAGEOUS! So, Adam asks an old lady what sort of underwear she thinks a young man is wearing, and he whips off his pants to confirm/deny her accusation. Doubtless, a certain demographic goes wild at this point, and all the guys watching this show are all, “Aw, hell naw!” At any rate, I can only imagine how proud Jessica’s old employers must be.
Bradley and Gwen set up for passersby to play blindfolded street golf (with a giant beach ball), which really only accomplishes the possible near-destruction of one of their cameras. It seems like, somehow, they waste a good hour and a half on this idea before trying to think of something new. Thus far, the “KISS” strategy has done nothing but get “Beth” stuck in my head. Thanks, guys.
Daniel and Zo decide to do something more cinematic and different for their short, and Daniel finds inspiration veritably gleaming off his and his partners’ respective pates. They decide to try a “Britney Spears, Fallen Off the Wagon” theme, which is accomplished by filming Daniel staggering around drunkenly through the street, but only showing the very top of his head. Bald is beautiful!
Schliz starts out with a “Space Invaders” theme, where he moves closer and closer to people as he’s interviewing them. You know, invading their personal space bubble, not “shoot where they’re going to be, not where they are.” Which is totally how you beat that game, FYI. This sketch is not really a hit, and after some arguing between Schliz and Evie, they decide to change their short to “My Personal Idiot,” where Schliz helplessly does the bidding of the heartless passersby. Almost immediately, Schliz is stripped down to his schkivvies and a woman is riding on his back, while the respective demographics probably do their respective responses. Note to my TV Guide Overlords in New York: If I have to see one more man dance around in his man-panties, I quit.
Sharon and Lindsay, meanwhile, go for the more tasteful, timeless theme of “Men vs. Women!” You know, it cuts back and forth with one gender’s questions and the other’s inappropriate answers, reinforcing things like, “All women are terrible drivers!” *laugh track* “All men are lecherous pigs who like implants!” *laugh track* “Mantenna has clinical depression!” *laugh track* And so on.
Bradley, meanwhile, has come up with a new theme: give the passersby pom-poms and megaphones and make them do cheers about going to the bathroom! Yaaaaaaay! Bradley thinks that the idea is hysterically funny and an absolute stroke of genius. Personally, I’m painfully embarrassed for both him and the people who are doing these cheers. I don’t even smoke, but I had to pause the Tivo, go outside, and go through about seven packs before I could come back to this sideshow he’s created.
Back to Schliz and his schtick—a woman knees him in the groin, further encouraging the creepy S&M vibe of their skit. Yes, taste the whip, Schliz! Bleeeeeed for me! *Zips mouth shut* Anyway, for a man who just had his huevos elevated roughly to his spleen, he took it well.
The Hard Time Cutting Floor Blues
Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to film, and is full of misery, so just like that, it’s time to hit the editing room. Daniel and Zo have some creative differences on whether to reveal the punchline at the very end (Daniel’s idea) or drop hints for the audience along the way (Zo’s idea), but they are very civil about it, especially compared to what they hear in the next room! Evie is fed up with her partner, Schliz, and now compares him to a tiresome child, as they vociferously debate the integrity of each others’ work histories:
“No, sir! I do believe that my resume is much more thorough than yours!”
“I believe that this opinion, which you hold, is one based upon delusion!”
“But I am thirteen years your senior, which contributes to my worldly skill, and I am intimately familiar with the concepts of deadlines and pressure!”
It goes on and on, really nothing at all like this. Evie’s hair is all in her face, giving her an awesome “Cousin It” look, and screams that she’s worked on projects that would make Schliz's eyes bleed. Unintentional eavesdroppers Daniel and Zo sit wide-eyed and slack-jawed.
Elsewhere, Lindsay is getting fed up with the constant bossiness and unwanted “mentoring” from her VETERAN teammate, Sharon. This has gone on since the filming of the project, where Sharon insisted that Lindsay “practice” doing man-on-the-street interviews, despite the fact the Lindsay does interviews on her own show, and Sharon had no clue how to work any of the equipment. Sharon, assumedly just oblivious, feels that this is a wonderful deed, not simply patronizing.
Even yet elsewhere, Bradley is piecing together his bathroom street-cheering vignette, and he is simply thrilled with the results. His partner Gwen/everyone else in the world? Not so much. My personal internet writer opinion is that Bradley fudged his screening drug test in an elaborate, Gattaca-esque scheme, because he is clearly on something to be finding this sketch so brilliant. Really, even if you made “Yakety Sax” the background music, it would still suck. I bet Bradley reads a Chuck Norris fact generator every morning, and it keeps him going through the hard times.
Dawn breaks, shattering the darkness cast by the 30th commercial break in 45 minutes, and we find ourselves at the day of reckoning. Everyone’s nervous, Daniel writhes about in his bed, and all the women, amidst their morning hair-drying tee-hee gossip, cross their fingers that the bossy Sharon will receive zee boot.
So, let’s meet the judges:
David Hill is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Fox Sports network, and just the sort of grizzled, wizened gentlemen whom you’d expect with such a title, doubtlessly eating money sandwiches for breakfast harvested by his Croatian man-servants from the money-tree orchard behind his estate.
Matt Roush, Senior Television Critic at TV Guide magazine and TVGuide.com, is younger and handsomer and funny and smart and, I assume, kind of like my boss.
The gentlemen are joined by host Ananda Lewis and Carson Daly producer David Friedman, and the scrutiny of the contestants’ shorts begins. (Doesn’t that sound odd?)
Schliz and Evie’s “Personal Idiot” sketch is up first, and though it might be lacking slightly in the funny, the judges praise it for its skillful execution and late-night feel. Schliz schmirks. When asked how they worked together, they almost immediately start throwing barbs at one another, and the panel jokes, “Well, clearly you got along just fine!”
Jessica and Adam’s “Brief Encounters” underwear sketch does not fare as well (although it really is a literal short, ba-domp-ching). Although the panel is glad that there was some literal “showing” going on, rather than relying on your imagination, David proclaims, “If you’ve seen one little piece of fabric, you’ve seen them all.” Yes, this man is a veteran of the business, all right. Adam complains about the lack of time and how, as a writer, he likes to have more preparation time, but David verbally slaps him down in a most satisfying manner.
Daniel and Zo’s “Britney Off the Wagon” is really quite amusing in its completed form, and the pair decided to opt for Daniel’s “payoff at the very end” version. Though the judges were split on which version would have been more effective, the sketch gets positive reviews across the board and kudos for its creativity and element of surprise.
Gwen and Bradley’s bathroom cheer/documentary on the effects of producers on ecstasy is, as expected, uncomfortable to watch and roundly panned. Suffice it to say that if this sketch were a naughty waif, the judges would have boxed its ears and sent it off to bed with no orphanage gruel. However, no rainy days or Mondays are going to get Bradley down, and he sings the praises of their work, saying that if HE were judging it, he would have awarded it an effin’ Oscar. Well, with the way the Academy Awards have been going lately. . . .
Finally, Lindsay and Sharon’s “Battle of the Gender Stereotypes” sketch also receives rather sour reviews, as the judges wished that it was more topical and original (and humorous). Sharon says that the genius of the sketch is in its versatility, and is deservedly mocked when she gives David Friedman her “permission” to use the idea for Last Call. When asked who did what in the production of this sketch, we get into the nasty can of worms with the VETERAN mentoring Lindsay, who you’d think was a helpless child to hear Sharon talk. Lindsay defends herself, revealing Sharon’s technical incompetence and that she [Lindsay] did a majority of the work.
Leggo My Ego
The contestants are led upstairs to allow the judges some deliberation time, but why take time off from the fighting? Sharon goes all, “YOU SET ME UP! YOU SET ME UP!” on Lindsay, but fellow “rookie” Gwen comes to Lindsay’s aid, telling Sharon to, “Please, madam, refrain from speaking in such accusatory verbiage against your junior peers!” Well, not exactly in those terms . . . more like, "STFU." If America’s Next Producer can be faulted on one thing, it is insufficient insulation on their sets, for the judges hear all this screaming and fighting from downstairs. Sharon declares a blood vendetta against Gwen, and the stage is set for our era’s newer, sassier version of Montecchi/Capelletti, Holmes/Moriarty, Dewey/Truman, and Kramer/Kramer.
The results are revealed with refreshingly little fanfare and fake drama. Daniel and Zo’s short is declared the best, but there can be only one winner of the day. Since the skit was Daniel’s bald-brainchild from the beginning, he is the victor! Zo is also safe. Evie and Schlizz are next to leave the room, followed by Jessica and Adam, and then Lindsay and Gwen are plucked from their respective teams, making it a final showdown of Sharon, the VETERAN, and Bradley, the thief of a wheelchair-bound Jude Law’s DNA. I can only hope that one of them will be sent into outer space.
While Sharon might be less well-versed than she believes, Bradley is waaaaaaay out there, so it’s a wrap for him and his Oscar nominations. Upon his exit, Bradley never stops patting himself on the back, stating that he’s proud of himself for being submitted to intense pressure, but still not failing. Well, I hate to break it to you, Bradley, but you just got booted from the show. What you just did was, in fact, fail.
Well, that was an interesting first go-round on this carousel, no? Stay tuned next week for more fights, more edutainment fun, a trio of angry footballers, and more production values than your mortal face can handle!