I should not have been surprised by the news, but it still came as a jolt. Richard Roeper announced a day ago that he didn't come to terms on an agreement with Disney to stay with the At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper show. And now Roger Ebert, who has been on medical leave for a long time, has also quit.
In fact the last time Ebert was on the show, I was still living in Toronto! Man, that was a long time ago.
Word is that Disney wanted to go a different direction -- away from movie reviews and more towards the Entertainment Tonight route. As if that is what we need: more coverage of Lindsay Lohan. In fact, this has been rumored for a while now; people were saying a long time ago that Disney wanted a different kind of show. Anyway, seems both Ebert and Roeper wanted no part of it.
History is now likely to repeat itself: Roeper is going to bolt to a new TV review show produced by someone else, just like what Siskel and Ebert did back in 1986 when they quit Tribune for Disney. I dunno if Ebert will be well enough to join him there. And the old Disney At the Movies show, whatever form it takes, is likely to die a lonely death under new management.
Of course, the show really died a long time ago when Gene Siskel passed away. Then it went head first into the shark tank again when Ebert went under the knife for cancer. I give Roeper and regular fill-in critic Michael Phillips credit for giving it the old college try with Roger gone to the hospital for so long. Ironically, the show itself has been less of a debacle in the last few months: they actually figured out how to review movies without doing the thumbs up-thumbs down routine. They had the critics do the "see it" or "skip it" thing, which was better than nothing.
Now, that thumbs dispute was another big issue between Disney and Ebert, with Ebert withholding the use of his trademark thumbs on the show after getting into a contract dispute of his own last fall. That was the writing on the wall for the entire series right there.
David Poland has his own take about the decline and fall of the show, blaming Disney for nickel-and-diming it to death.
Anyway, it really is the end of an era, as Siskel, Ebert and Roeper have been on forever in one form or another. What am I going to watch on the weekends now? Probably football, or the stuff on AMC and TCM. Maybe I'll watch the weekend editions of Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood. Or maybe I'll watch whatever junk Disney serves up to replace what we were getting lately from Roeper and Phillips.