Television

Opposable Thumbs

|

Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper are departing the TV show that made them celebrities. Someday I'll write a detailed appreciation of Ebert's smart, funny, and unpretentious writing. For now I'll link to Patrick Goldstein's comments about the show in the L.A. Times:

[T]he success of the original "Siskel and Ebert at the Movies" was a fluke, owing more to the engaging personalities of the two critics than their actual opinions. Siskel and Ebert, though trained as ink-stained wretch newspaper men, turned out to be a great showbiz buddy team, the film-critic version of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. They had a chemistry on screen that transcended critical heft. Siskel was no Pauline Kael-style deep thinker, but on camera, he had verve and a dry wit. Tall and slender, Siskel was Stan Laurel to Ebert's chubby Oliver Hardy. They were song and dance men, even when reviewing the drekiest of summer trash. As much as I admire Ebert, once Siskel was gone–he died in 1999–the show lost momentum. The magic was gone. Teaming Ebert with Roeper, with all due respect, was like putting Walter Matthau on screen with Greg Kinnear–a respectable match, but not one made in heaven.

Television is a performance medium. Criticism is about words and ideas, which is why it belongs on the page, be it in a newspaper or on a computer screen. As a fan of Ebert, I'm delighted to see him abandoning TV and putting all his energy into writing again.

Goldstein adds a couple of bonus videos. I liked this one best:

Advertisement

NEXT: McCain and Iraq

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Someday I’ll write a detailed appreciation of Ebert’s writing.

    All you need to know, is that he wrote Beyond The Vally Of The Dolls

  2. Siskel was no Pauline Kael-style deep thinker

    How did Nixon beat McGovern anyway? Nobody she knew voted for him.

  3. Nitpick: S&E’s breakout TV show was Sneak Previews, from Chicago’s WTTW.

    Kevin

  4. Some of Ebert’s reviews are great and some are stupid as hell. Gene often called him on it when he was being stupid, which led to some serious entertainment.

    Siskel was no Pauline Kael-style deep thinker

    I hope this is sarcasm.

  5. He really showed his age in the 80’s sometimes. Check out his ridiculous review of Blue Velvet for example.

  6. kevrob: It might not be technically accurate, but I think of all three versions of “Siskel & Ebert” as the same show, migrating from one corporate owner to another and producing poor copies each time it moves.

  7. Siskel was no Pauline Kael-style deep thinker

    I don’t know about that. I was watching one of those talk shows like Meet the Press during the Cold War. They had a couple of talking head pundits, a soviet ambassador or such, and Siskel. They were discussing Rocky IV and whether it was helping or hurting relations with the Soviets. Some pussy apologist was making the point that if Rocky IV was a “good Movie” (quit laughing) then it could be excused for inciting the Soviets.

    Siskel said something like “it doesn’t matter whether it is a crappy movie or not. This is America and we can watch whatever the hell want, screw the Soviets.”

    So maybe Siskel was the seed that germinated my liberation outlook.

  8. The interesting/refreshing thing to note is that S&E are shameless about going to McDonald’s regularly. These days, someone similarly famous would never admit to that.

  9. Siskel and Ebert reviews were better than 2/3rds of the movies that they reveiwed.

  10. Television is a performance medium. Criticism is about words and ideas, which is why it belongs on the page, be it in a newspaper or on a computer screen. As a fan of Ebert, I’m delighted to see him abandoning TV and putting all his energy into writing again.

    The only reason he’s doing that is because he is unable to speak as a result of cancer treatment and you’re delighted? This guy’s a major asshole.

  11. He really showed his age in the 80’s sometimes. Check out his ridiculous review of Blue Velvet for example.

    Probably the most famous of their disgreements. Every time S&E they were guests on local radio they could get mileage out of that one. Those radio appearances were the best thing they ever did together, way better than their (very good) TV show.

  12. I thought Roeper grew into the role quite nicely. Sorry to see him go. Though they never could find a decent co-host for him.

  13. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I used to be a big fan of Ebert’s writing, but for the past few years or maybe the last decade, his reviews have too-often been navel-gazing exercises in seeing the world through an Ebert lens. I can’t remember the last time I read one of his reviews that was actually funny.

    Maybe they should give the show to the Entertainment Weekly critics (Glieberman and somebody)? They’re good.

  14. Siskel & Ebert were good, but they were no Medved & whatever-that-other-guy’s-name-was.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.