To be honest, I don’t really enjoy the two critics Ebert picked for the show — Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky — but the show itself feels like a cultural institution and to see it go off the air because Ebert has been funding it out of pocket would be a shame.
“Unless we find an angel, our television program will go off the air at the end of its current season,” he writes on hisChicago Sun-Times blog. “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.”
Ebert writes that they paid for the screen test, pilot, titles, set, lighting, office space, design and maintenance of the website and salaries of all those who work on the show, though he and his wife do not take a salary. He writes that he wasn’t quite clear that would be the case when he first sold the show.
“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,” he writes. “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.”
What would help, me thinks, is to get a few well-known movie bloggers to guest on the show. Ebert could probably convince them to do it for very little, simply for the benefit of working with the famous critic. Shoot it for the web, not the PBS audience.