Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Balcony Is Closed: At the Movies Gets Canceled

News hit today that ABC and Disney have made the decision to cancel the iconic, long-running movie review show At the Movies. As I'm sure everyone knows, the show was started with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel in the reviewer's seats, quickly becoming the world's most famous film critics. The duo's popular thumbs up/thumbs down has become a lasting image of pop culture; being constantly referenced and spoofed. After Siskel passed away in 1999, Richard Roeper was brought on to fill his seat. While the show continued on just fine, you couldn't help but think that some of the magic was gone. The pairing of Siskel and Ebert were such a great fit that anything else, no matter how good, could compare. The shows current hosts, A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips, have performed admirably in maintaining the show's legacy, but sadly, due to a lack of ratings, the plug has been pulled.

Looking back on it, At the Movies has meant quite a bit to me. It was the first show of its kind that I was able to watch and it opened my eyes to the world of film. Not only did they say whether they liked or disliked a film, they articulated points and had an actual discussion. That's something I feel like most people don't care much about. The average movie-goer seems content to simply say, "That was cool" or "That sucked" and leave it at that. But for someone who grew into being a film junkie, it meant a lot to have people who genuinely had a passion for film talking about some slightly more nuanced aspects of the craft. It's sad that there's no room on television for a show like this anymore. Perhaps the advent of online film criticism has simply made the show outdated. I know I get the majority of my film news/reviews in podcast form these days and I'm sure many others would say the same.

It will be interesting to see what lies ahead for this type of programming. I hear Ebert is developing a new show, although who knows if that will catch on. Until the next big thing, there's always plenty of old YouTube clips to keep fans happy.

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