The Matt Damon/Ben Affleck reality series Project Greenlight is back after a decade, and in case it’s not on your radar, I strongly encourage you to watch it on HBO based on the opening episode alone.
In fact, the first episode — in which Affleck, Damon, the consulting Farrelly Brothers, and some other executives choose the director — may be one of the better episodes of the series, if only because a decade later, some of those challenges that weren’t as considered the last time around are front and center in the selection process here.
The diversity question is a big one, and it actually creates one of several awkward moments in the selection process, when one executive — pushing a more diverse directing team — clashes with Matt Damon, who thinks the decision should be based on merit alone. It’s a tense scene, and I’m not so sure that Matt Damon comes off in the most flattering light.
On the issue of diversity, Damon may have been correct in not choosing the more diverse directors, but his reasoning left something to be desired: “When we’re talking about diversity,” Damon told Effie Brown, who was the only one giving him pushback, “you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show.”
Exactly, Effie Brown.
Matt Damon speaking over the only black person in the room so he can explain diversity to her is SO WHITE it hurts pic.twitter.com/iaQStYZ0ij— Glen Coco (@MrPooni) September 14, 2015
The other clash comes between Damon/Affleck and the Farrelly Brothers. The script that’s been provided for the chosen director to helm is a broad comedy, and the question becomes: Do you choose the director that’s best suited to the material, or the director that might make the best movie, even if it’s not ultimately the broad comedy that is being written?
I will say this much: The choice is not one that the Farrelly Brothers were particularly happy about, and based on what little we know from the first episode, the Farrelly Brothers may ultimately prove correct. The director they chose may or may not make a great movie from the script he is given, but he’s certainly going to be a interesting character on the series, if only because he’s not the grateful, fawning type. He’s the kind of guy who wins a contest and immediately asks that the writer be fired.
He’s got balls, and he’s kind of an asshole, and it’s interesting but not particularly surprising that Damon and Affleck — who lean toward more substantive films — would choose him. However, they may have gotten more than what they bargained for.
It’s going to make for some great television as it delves into those questions of commerce vs. art in complicated and awkward ways, especially with a director who is not afraid to confront Affleck and Damon early on. It may be the first Project Greenlight where the director is fired, or it may be the first Project Greenlight that actually produces a film that’s worth a damn.
Either way, Damon and Affleck are — as always — splendidly charming and self-effacing. That, alone, is worth the minimal time commitment to the series.