I just found out today that a few days ago, one of my favorite TV shows, At the Movies, was canceled by Disney. For those looking for reasons to hate the studio, you now have one more.
The show began airing way back in the day with film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. From the start it had a pretty strong following and eventually went national. As a kid I remember vividly watching the show, and I’m sure that’s a good part of why I’m such a movie fan today.
Siskel died back in 1999 and Ebert left the show in 2006 after surgery for cancer left him unable to talk. The show carried on, first with Ebert and Richard Roeper, and then Roeper and a variety of other people until Michael Phillips was selected as the permanent co-host.
Not long after, Disney replaced them with Ben Mankiewicz, a very credibly film buff and frequent TCM host, and Ben Lyons, who was young, attractive, had a famous movie-critic father and no real credibility. The show foundered almost away, and Disney clearly had no faith in the two as presenters. It staggered along for a year and eventually Ben and Ben were replaced with Michael Phillips and A O Scott, both of whom were very good and who brought some real status back to the show.
But it was too little, too late. Just the other day Disney announced they are canceling the show at the end of the current season. This came as no great surprise to me, but was certainly a great disappointment.
Happily there is good news to be had. Roger Ebert announced on his blog that there’s going to be a new program called Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies. It will feature, among other things, the return of the “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down” style which is trademarked by Ebert and Siskel’s estate.
So sad though it is that the show is gone, it’s good that we’ll still have something in some form for viewers to enjoy. Ebert sounds pretty enthusiastic about it, and I am, too! It’s something good to look forward to.
Bring it on, Roger!