Over on his Sun-Times blog today, Roger Ebert announced the details for his new show. Starting January 21, Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies will air via a patchwork of public television channels in over 80 percent of the country (they’re working on the rest), as well as internationally via the Armed Forces Network. Explains Ebert: “The show will return to WTTW, Chicago Public Television, where Gene Siskel and I first taped ‘Sneak Previews’ in 1975. The station still has our original seats, but we are constructing an all new set. Our critics of course will be back in the iconic balcony, and will be using the famous ‘thumbs up / thumbs down’ rating system. Next week, executive producer Chaz Ebert will make an announcement regarding the co-hosts and contributing critics for the new show. She will also describe our website, with new and original content.”
Sounds excellent. Even better: There’s drama already.
Elsewhere within the Sun-Times family, Lewis Lazarre reports that Elvis Mitchell, who formerly wrote for the New York Times and currently hosts regularly excellent radio interview show “The Treatment,” has been dropped as a prospective co-host:
When producers Roger Ebert and wife Chaz Ebert announced the new program in September, Mitchell was paired with Associated Press movie critic Christy Lemire, who is still with the movie review show. But since that announcement, there had been growing concern about whether Mitchell was the right person for the job. One source who had seen the pilot shot earlier this year with Lemire and Mitchell said it showed little on-air chemistry between the two.
The Eberts are now under pressure to find the right person by Jan. 1 for the show to debut on schedule. One dark horse candidate believed to be under consideration is a young male in his mid-20s with little or no experience as a movie critic or as a TV talent. Another possible option, sources said, would involve a pairing of Lemire with another critic described as a female version of tart-tongued former “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell.
But Ebert is dismissing the whole report: In a tweet that links to a Hollywoodnews.com piece, he writes, “The Sun-Times story cited is assumed to have authority. Its writer never spoke to us. Nothing in it came from us.” Well, the behind-the-scenes casting machinations for this public-access movie-review show are certainly surprisingly engaging.
Seeing as Ebert hasn’t said Mitchell is on the show, it sounds like his issue is just with the dramatic manner in which Mitchell’s departure is represented. Meaning: There is a spot open. You know who it’d be weird if they cast? Former University of Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac.