"Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies," a weekly half-hour film review program, was announced today by its producers, Chaz and Roger Ebert. The program continues the 35-year-old run of a reviewing format first introduced by Gene Siskel and Ebert and later by Ebert and Richard Roeper. It will return to its birthplace, launching nationally on public television with presenting station WTTW Chicago, where it began in 1975 as "Opening Soon at a Theater Near You" and then in 1976 as "Sneak Previews," became the highest rated entertainment show in PBS history. The original format moved into syndication as "At the Movies" in 1982 with Tribune Entertainment and a quarter-century with Buena Vista Television.
The Eberts said the new program will air in January 2011, and in addition to reviewing new movies will expand into coverage of New Media, special segments on classics, on-demand viewing and genres, and an extended website. It will use the copyrighted "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down"® format made famous by Siskel & Ebert.
"I believe that by returning to its public roots, our new show will win better and more consistent time slots in more markets," added Ebert. "American television is swamped by mindless gossip about celebrities, and I'm happy this show will continue to tell viewers honestly if the critics think a new movie is worth seeing."
Hallelujah. All I have to do is TiVo the show every week and watch it on Sunday night, and my old ritual will be alive and well. Mitchell and Lemire are both strong, sexy TV presences who can be counted on to keep things lively, although I was fond of the last At the Movies hosts Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott, who are also trying to work up something new. They were likely too serious for today's ruthless TV market, finally. Going back to PBS is probably the right move in order to keep the show smart.