PROJECT GREENLIGHT: The Most Diabolical Show on Television?

Have you ever been to a college interview, walked out, got a rejection letter three months after the fact, and wondered, “where did I go wrong?” Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall after you left that room, bequeathed with the thick vapor of your fragrant unease? Well, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have got you covered, but as you are soon to find out, you do not want to know what goes on behind closed doors.

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PROJECT GREENLIGHT is the physical equivalent of paying for your DVD’s special features. However, it’s worth dissecting the pilot separately from the rest of the show because it functions as a standalone introduction to what later becomes an extensive, serialized behind-the-scenes look into the making of a comedy.

The show’s motto proclaims that viewers get to Go inside the drama of making a comedy”, and its pilot intends to show this by introducing the audience to the esteemed thirteen finalists, only to mow down twelve of them with the banishing grace of demigods Damon, Affleck and their trusty cohorts. In addition, we find out that Peter Farrelly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about filmmakers with an original voice, and that Effie Brown cares more about racial and gender diversity than talent.

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So here’s the situation: whether or not one is interested in comparing PROJECT GREENLIGHT to AMERICAN IDOL, THE VOICE or X-FACTOR is completely in the eye of the beholder, but there’s a simple explanation for why this sequel to the GOOD WILL HUNTING special features is a criminal act of malevolence. Singers, while also artists, don’t spend thousands of dollars and years of work just to make one single submission, especially not in this Vimeo-laden day and age of digital filmmaking.

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Amateur filmmakers, what’s good? 

Let’s put this into perspective. All thirteen submissions get roughly five-twenty seconds of screen-time during the pilot episode. And whilst some of the films like LIVING WITH JIGSAW might not be expensive projects, SKYBORN sure as hell wasn’t a hundred dollar backyard project that some kid made with his best friend Trumbo the basset hound. So after all the time and effort these talented individuals put into making indisputably fantastic short films, these finalists are flown to LA for no other reason but to shake Affleck and Damon’s hands and attend a press junket or two? And if that isn’t enough, they most likely just watched the pilot the other day and got to hear a paraphrased version of why they fell short.

project greenlight borat

Thank you for choosing the JW Marriot, that’ll be 15.99 for your VOD of ARGO

What makes the entire procedure of this pilot all the more perplexing is that the show already cut down 3,000 submissions down to thirteen, so making an entire episode that rides off of the failure of twelve individuals is downright diabolical. Let’s think about this for a good second: would anybody have cared if the season would have started with episode two and a quick recap explaining who the official winner is? If viewers get really curious who the winner was up against, they could easily access the Project Greenlight website and see the finalists, sparing the participants public shaming and celebrity blue balling. After all, most talent competitions only mow down one contestant per episode, making the entire experience equal part celebration of the remaining winners and a partial exploitation of the loser, but this is an all right massacre, putting twleve people right back on the streets just when audiences thought they might get to know them.

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Nobody ever talks about how he was in season one

The real problem here is that PROJECT GREENLIGHT shows its viewers what it’s like to be a producer who is picking a potential director. What the show seems to forget is that the director never knows what happens behind those closed doors, and working off of that tension would actually be a lot less wicked. After all, that’s what being a director is like, and that’s really what the show should be trying to expose. Seeing why people don’t make the final cut is the equivalent of watching artists get helplessly roasted.


The least that Project Greenlight could have done is decide not to profit off of their “almost-had-it” mentality. In fact, it’s almost as if the entire episode exists for no other purpose than to fuel a fire between Damon, Brown and Farrelly, all at the expense of having waved a three-million dollar check in the faces of twelve hopeful directors. The pilot makes it clear that it’s really aiming for drama with a capital D in order to deliver on their tagline, but just because a television show is giving viewers the D doesn’t mean someone isn’t being assaulted.

PROJECT GREENLIGHT just finished up its fourth season on HBO

"When I make love, I realize eating steak was the preferable alternative." Sergio is the Crossfader Film Editor and a film connoisseur from Romania. He pretends to understand culinary culture enough to call himself an LA foodie, but he just can't manage to like scallops.

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