Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ebert Leaves Balcony, Launches Blog

As reported by MSN today, veteran film critic Roger Ebert has left his movie review TV show "At the Movies" and has just launched his own blog via the Chicago Sun-Times. Read his heartfelt posting on his departure here. When Ebert first left the show for health reasons, I suspected that he would not return. Sadly, my prediction has come true, but not for the reason I thought it would.

Ebert's transition from TV to the web marks the end of one era and the beginning of another. Many fans of the program, among whom I count myself, have expressed feelings similar to those experienced upon Johnny Carson's 1992 retirement from "The Tonight Show". The comparison is valid, as regular viewers invited Ebert into their living rooms for over 25 years and are sad to see him go. One of the cold, hard facts of the television industry is that, regardless of the subject or time slot, talk shows can only last so long before they need revitalization. In most cases, the passing of the torch to a younger host coincides with the retirement or firing of the current host. The new talent is then tasked with the Olympian responsibilities of maintaining the current viewership and wooing a new generation of fans. Regarding "At the Movies", the show will go on with Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz taking over as hosts.

It is worth noting that, in spite of an extended cancer battle that has cruelly robbed him of his speech, Ebert's output of reviews has been largely undiminished. In fact, his writings have been so prolific in recent months as to put critics of younger age and better health to shame. His resilience in the face of an illness that has nearly claimed his life is nothing short of Spartan and serves as an inspiring example for the rest of us to follow. Judging from the man's work ethic, enthusiasm, and unwavering passion for the art he loves, Ebert's best work is ahead of him.

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