Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett

The most-anticipated new reality show of next year was conceived in Steven Spielberg's backyard. In early 2006, the Oscar-winning director was at his Los Angeles home chatting with Mark Burnett, the creator of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice." The topic was not television, but a movie they'd like to make together. The movie remains a secret, but "in the course of talking about the film, I mentioned that I was interested in sweeping the world to find new actors and directors," Spielberg recalls, standing next to his black luxury golf cart on the Universal lot. "I said, 'You know, it could also be a reality show'." Why yes, Steven, it could. A week later Burnett was back with a pitch for "On the Lot," a Fox reality series that pits 16 young film directors against each other for a shot at a $1 million development deal with Spielberg's studio, DreamWorks. "It's a fairly simple concept," Burnett says. "Most good things are fairly simple."

"Lot" breaks the contestants into four teams, which shoot a short film each week. The films premiere before three judges, and America votes for the best movie. (They said it was a simple idea, not an original one.) The director of the film with the fewest votes gets axed. "We all watch movies and sit there saying this movie is great or that one is crap," Burnett says. "This show gives the audience the experience of being a critic." Spielberg will not be playing hatchet man the way Donald Trump does on "The Apprentice." He's more like the grand prize. "Lot" will debut in May around the time of the "American Idol" finale, but Spielberg won't show up until the last episode, when he'll escort the winner to his or her new office. "Frankly, I've got too much on my plate to be a member of the cast," he says. Then he grins: "Besides, there's only room on this planet for one Trump." There's barely room for one .

Join the Discussion