Writing on his Chicago Sun-Times blog Sunday night, film critic Roger Ebert warned that his public TV show, Ebert Presents At the Movies, will end after the current season if it doesn't secure new financial backing.
Starting with Sneak Previews in 1975, and ending with Siskel & Ebert in 1999, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert evolved from two Chicago newspaper film critics to cultural icons, with their trademark Roman emperor-style thumbs up/down system of rendering a verdict on a film. And, of course, the potential highlight of any given tete-a-tete was the chance that we the viewers would witness an impassioned argument between the two cinephiles, making the show not only informative, but entertaining as well.
Siskel passed away in 1999, but the show continued in various incarnations, with several name changes and dozens of replacement hosts along the way, the current version being hosted by Christy Lemire of the Associated Press and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of Mubi.com.
Ebert, who can no longer speak after losing his lower jaw to thyroid and salivary gland cancer, has been paying all the bills for the show himself, as well as producing it with wife Chaz, neither of whom takes a salary for their efforts. They did receive a $25,000 donation from the Kanbar Charitable Trust, but the money is drying up. Ebert wrote:
"Unless we find an angel, our television program will go off the air at the end of its current season. There. I've said it. Usually in television, people use evasive language. Not me. We'll be gone. I want to be honest about why this is. We can't afford to finance it any longer."
Frankly, I think the show should continue if for no other reason than the occasional appearance of thirteen-year-old "Kid Critic" Jackson Murphy, so we can eventually find out if he's a robot or not.