Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ebert & Roeper
The show originally starred Ebert and Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, representing the two largest papers in Chicago. It began as a PBS program produced at Chicago's WTTW titled Coming Soon to a Theater Near You (1975), later Sneak Previews (1978), and quickly became a hit by public television standards. In 1981, asked to agree to an unfavorable syndication contract, the pair decided to produce their own program under Tribune Entertainment titled At the Movies. After brief legal action, PBS continued Previews with different hosts. In 1986 the critics moved on once again to Buena Vista Entertainment , the television division of Disney, and changed the title to reflect the common nickname for their show, Siskel & Ebert. A brief controversy flared questioning whether the critics would retain their integrity while working for a Hollywood studio.
Roger and Gene often had quite different tastes in movies and directors, and as a result heated arguments and spats were common on the show. Many viewers considered such conflicts to be the highlight of the program. Meanwhile, the critics remained the best of friends off screen, a fact visible in their joint appearances on the talk show circuit, especially on David Letterman's shows.
Siskel and Ebert would review three recently-released movies per episode, taking turns providing a narrative critique interspersed with studio-supplied clips, moving into a back-and-forth debate over the merits, and beginning with the Siskel & Ebert incarnation, wrapping up the show with each critic giving each film a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to indicate a gut recommendation. This departed from longstanding tradition in the profession of portraying the recommendation to a number of stars. As the show became more popular, many movie studios would proudly proclaim that their movie got "Two thumbs up" in their commericals when Siskel and Ebert both liked their film. In response, the pair had the phrase trademarked to ensure against fraudulent use that would endanger its credibility.
Occasionally, special shows were produced that focus on particular aspects of film or home video. The show gave them a convenient soapbox to feature their opinions on film colorization, letterboxing, the MPAA film rating system, product placement, independent filmmaking, and social issues such as racism. Every year the pair would do an Oscar preview and lobby for their favorites, shows which had some influence in Hollywood.
Siskel & Ebert ended in 1999 following the death of Gene Siskel. For a while Ebert experimented with guest hosts on a non-permanent basis (under the title Roger Ebert & the Movies). In September of that year, Ebert made fellow Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper Gene's permanent replacement on the show. On September of 2000, the new show became known as Ebert & Roeper and the Movies (shortened in the following year to the current name, Ebert & Roeper).
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