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August 28, 2015

Shows That Need to Come Back: 'Project Greenlight'

by Jane Murphy, posted Feb 6th 2011 1:15PM
Tentpoles are letting us down ('Tron' ... meh) and big budget comedies are suddenly bombing ('The Dilemma'), so maybe it's time to put a small fraction of the business back in the hands of amateurs.

The always-riveting 'Project Greenlight' was gone too soon from TV. Sure, it didn't produce any Oscar winners, but it did give talent a leg up (wasn't THAT the point?).

A little-known actor named Shia LeBeouf stole the show in season 2 with his precocious professionalism in the face to 'Project Greenlight's' usual chaos. And on Feb. 25, the Farrelly Brothers' 'Hall Pass' opens wide; the naughty premise was brought to us by indefatigable screenwriter Pete Jones -- yes, that Pete Jones, the first to get 'Greenlight's greenlight, for the twee 'Stolen Summer' (oy, that title).

'Project Greenlight' was the brainchild of struggling actor-screenwriters turned mega-stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who teamed up with co-creator Chris Moore in 2001 to give unknown writers and directors a shot at a career in Hollywood. It was an early synergistic venture, as fans and competitors were able to log on to 'Greenlight's site and vote on submitted scripts.

Nominated for the Outstanding Reality Program Emmy every year it aired, 'Greenlight's fizzle was entirely preventable. The expectations put on the winning films to succeed at the box office were absurdly high. If another set of filmmakers gets a chance with a revived 'Greenlight', have the film premiere at Sundance or Slamdance -- start small and finish small. Or premiere it as a high-profile cable film, a la 'Temple Grandin.' A shoestring film shoot provided drama and laughs sorely missed on the tube. After the last episode in 2005, TV Squad's own Bob Sassone lamented its demise.

Recessions are always friendly to Cinderella stories, new and old (witness 'Project Runway', the eighth season giving us its best group ever), so the time has come again for 'Greenlight.'

Remember the Gulager family from Bravo's season 3? (The first two seasons aired on HBO.) When awkward film geek John Gulager won the right to direct the bloody feature 'Feast', Gulager proved himself to be the ultimate package deal. Meaty roles were awarded to unsung character actors Diane Goldner and Tom Gulager (John's wife and brother) and the grizzled former star of 'The Virginian', Clu Gulager (John's Dad, at left).

John Gulager ended up being the perfect 'Greenlight' winner, as his DIY family band ended up making two direct-to-video 'Feast' sequels and creating a cult franchise among horror aficionados. Here's a sample from 'Project Greenlight's' last season:

The most impressive writer-director coming out of the 'Greenlight' stable? Ironically, it's 'Greenlight's' co-creator Ben Affleck. Though never an acting Oscar nominee, Affleck's so far guided two nominated performances -- Amy Ryan in 'Gone Baby Gone' and Jeremy Renner in this year's 'The Town'.

Affleck's success behind the camera has certainly honed his skills as a judge of talent. Come back to TV, Ben, and bring 'Greenlight' with you. And if you're too busy to judge, you can always replace yourself with Steven Tyler.

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Loved Project Greenlight

February 06 2011 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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