Who says reality TV can't be good for you? This is without doubt our timeliest and most pro-social episode yet. America's Next Producer goes green, and after meeting this episode's guest judge, Daniel Hinerfeld of the Natural Resources Defense Council, I find myself wishing I'd considered riding a bike to the stage today instead of my rental car.
We're shooting this episode on the afternoon of Mother's Day, 24 hours before network TV's upfront week is to begin on my home turf of New York. Everyone I know is obsessed with what new shows are being ordered and which shows on the ropes might get canceled, so it's actually refreshing to take my head out of show biz for a few hours and think about more important matters facing the planet at large.
Overall, we're impressed by the public service announcements the teams have produced. Most have done remarkably well considering the ridiculous time pressures: two hours to research, three hours to shoot, seven to edit. And once again, Zo bursts out of the pack with a powerful on-camera performance in his and Jessica's well-conceived spot. Picking Zo as a winner this week (his first win, and it's obvious he feels it's overdue) is one of our easier calls.
Here are some Zo moments you didn't see in the final cut. When the contestants line up in front of the judges, Zo is distracted by a gap he notices in the rug under the judges' table. He asks if it's OK if he walks over and fixes it, which he goes ahead and does. Talk about hands-on producing. And later, when the contestants return to the floor for the elimination, Zo has attached the NRDC's logo to his forehead. When Zo tells us he's a hustler, he's not kidding. Something tells me he knew he had this one in the bag.
On the other hand: Poor Schliz. I would never have expected him to go out without a fight, but this round really seems to have defeated him. (Later, watching the actual episode, I can see just how demoralized he was by his technical screw-up at overexposing the film during his beach shoot.) His and Evie's PSA was the weakest on several levels: visually as well as in concept. We like the "It starts with me" mantra that Evie came up with, but why bury that at the end? Still, it's Schliz's overall air of resignation that dooms him in our eyes.
When we shake hands after his elimination, I tell Schliz, "You rock," and he does. His I'll-do-anything-to-win spirit has been clear from the first challenge, when he volunteered to be an idiot-for-hire on Hollywood Boulevard. He did excellent work directing the Brian Dunkleman sitcom treatment. And he loved working with the kids on the "Shelby's World" children's show. But his heart didn't seem to be in this one (a suspicion confirmed by playing back the actual episode), and combined with his camera snafu, that's all it takes to be ejected from this tough competition.
More and more, it's clear that whoever's going to be America's next producer is going to have to roll with every conceivable punch, regardless of format. Schliz's inability to connect with this material is a serious handicap, and we reluctantly are forced to see the back (if not the last) of him.
By the next elimination, I'll find myself wishing he were still in the game. If the producers of America's Next Producer had switched the order of this challenge and the one that follows, for which Schliz is infinitely better suited, the final results might have been so different. But that's the way it goes. (And you'll see what I mean when you see the episode.)
Saving the world isn't easy- and I wish you could have seen Daniel Hinerfeld's rousing final pep talk to the remaining contestants urging them to put environmental messages in whatever form of TV they might ultimately produce. Neither, it turns out, is winning this game.