I'll Tell You Where You Can Put Those Thumbs

I’ve never been a big fan of the show either way, but I think Lisa Schwarzbaum has the right idea about the upcoming transition of Ebert and Roeper to an Ebert-and-Roeperless format. You should read her entire post, but here’s the gist:

Look, the thumbs were a Siskel & Ebert thing, no one else’s. (As it is, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel’s widow share copyright ownership of the thumb-as-critical-signature.) The two print journalists, with faces made for radio, were different in temperament, different in aesthetic taste, different in bulk—and matched in energy, passion, and, at the time, critical heft, too. But then, after Siskel’s death, and as Ebert’s own national stature grew substantially, for a while the show became Ebert-plus-guest-thumb. … The give-and-take was already unbalanced. And when Richard Roeper—a newspaper columnist and entertainment writer with smooth on-air skills but not, himself, an established movie critic—was selected as Siskel’s permanent successor, the show became about Ebert the influential critic, plus the guy in Siskel’s chair. In other words, the critical mismatch further distorted the format’s original intent.

Now, alas, for the past two years, Ebert’s own health problems have kept him mute and off screen. … But face it, minus its original energy source, for a long while now Ebert & Roeper At the Movies has become a marginal infotainment show starring the not-quite-critic-guy in Siskel’s chair, plus a guest guest-thumb.

The show is set to relaunch at some point starring two youngish guys named Ben. Good for them, but I doubt the change in hosts will cause many new viewers to tune in (I’m pretty sure I won’t). Instead, I suspect Kyle Smith has the most accurate prediction regarding the future of the movie-crit-debate format when he suggests that “the true heirs to Siskel & Ebert … will be some feisty pair of vloggers yet to be discovered.”