Roger Ebert has posted the equivalent of the batsignal across the entertainment media skies: His review show, “Ebert Presents At the Movies,” is about to go under unless he finds a backer, stat.
Says Ebert: “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.”
And there you have it. Basically, they’ve been paying for everything from the titles to the editing suites to the salaries and they can’t float it any longer. He continues:
In trying to get the show back on TV, we approached WTTW, the Chicago public station where Gene and I began on “Sneak Previews” in 1976. In the dusty corner, they still had the balcony chairs we used. We went in for meetings. WTTW said it would love to have the show back again, and spoke of ideal time slots. They couldn’t have been friendlier. There was a problem, which I didn’t catch on to right away. They were not going to finance the show. I was living in dreamland. We were expected to finance the show ourselves. We would give the show free to those public stations that wanted it, using something called American Public Television to distribute it. APT is a different entity than PBS, but we would receive no funding from either one.
He goes into great detail on his blog (and you should read it in full), but this is the bottom line: Roger Ebert is our greatest film critic and he’s struggling to find an entity willing to back the review show that carries his name.
I don’t know if this scenario a testament to the hyperactive ways of today’s TV; by comparison, “Ebert Presents,” like “Sneak Previews,” concentrates on the opinions and the movies. Maybe it’s the fact that the able hosts, Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, can’t carry the same star power as the man whose name is on the show. Or it could be traced back to the delicate 21st century balancing act maintained by public television itself.
In any case: There’s got to be an answer, right? Kickstarter? YouTube? Tell us what you think in the comments. In the meantime, we’ll reach out to Ebert to get more information.