Roger Ebert Presents is a half-hour syndicated program that carries on the tradition started by the legendary film critic and his colleague Gene Siskel back in the 1970s. At the time, serious discussion of movies and the film industry was largely relegated to brief reviews sandwiched in on local news broadcasts. Ebert and Siskel changed all that by pioneering a program that featured intelligent debates about movies- and not just high brow fare. The two Chicago critics would often disparage prestigious releases as pretentious and lavish praise on other movies that were often derided as "B" films. In doing so, they revolutionized film criticism in general and exposed millions of people to movies that would otherwise have languished in obscurity. A lot has changed in the ensuing years. Siskel has passed away and Ebert has been robbed by health problems of his ability to speak. Ironically, he's probably as influential as ever. Ebert has mastered social media programs to keep in touch with his readers and he continues to write high profile, well-regarded books. He and his wife Chaz have also valiantly tried to keep Roger Ebert Presents on the air. Despite the fact that the show is widely syndicated to a large audience, the Eberts have not been able to find funding to continue for the 2012 season. In this era of austerity in the arts, Roger and Chaz have been forced to violate the key rule of producing: never fund the project yourself. That's exactly what the Eberts have been doing: paying the bills for all costs associated with the program. They have not even been taking salaries for their efforts. However, they can't continue to do so and have put out a public appeal for potential investor(s) to save the show.
I have never met Roger Ebert and my sole interaction with him was exchanging signed copies of books we had written many years ago. I have no idea if he has read Cinema Retro magazine or what he thinks of it if he does. I point this out because I have no vested personal interest in championing his cause- except for the fact that with so much sludge and valueless sleaze on TV today, it would truly be a shame if a man who is trying to maintain a bit of class and integrity in the medium would not find any takers. The budget for keeping Ebert's show (which features two young film critics) on the air wouldn't cover the coffee budget on the set of most programs. So here's hoping one of our most prolific film reviewers succeeds in his quest. For more click here