Last weekend, ABC debuted At the Movies, the successor to At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper. The new show takes the basic concept that Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert pioneered 33 years ago — two guys debate the week’s film releases — and tries to update it for a younger, hipper audience. And it doesn’t really work.
First is the matter of the hosts themselves: Ben Lyons, the 26-year-old “film expert” from E! Entertainment, and Ben Mankiewicz, the 41-year-old host for Turner Classic Movies. Unlike Siskel and Ebert, neither of these men are newspaper film critics. While Siskel and Ebert honed their criticism skills by writing about movies at great length, Lyons and Mankiewicz are more comfortable in the realm of the sound bite. As a result, the dialogue between the new hosts sounds more like a series of scripted quips than a real conversation.
And then there’s the show’s hasty editing. The program moves at a bam-bam-bam pace that feels artificially forced and awkward. This is especially apparent during the “Critics Roundup” segment, in which three additional critics provide their opinions via satellite. The segment could be a venue for a dynamic five-person discussion, a la ESPN’s Around the Horn. Instead, each guest critic has barely enough time to deliver a complete thought.
However, At the Movies‘ most baffling flaw might also be the easiest to fix: The show presents movie clips in a widescreen format, with bright orange bars on the top and bottom. Within the bars are animated shooting stars and other strange oscillating lines, and the effect is flat-out distracting. Instead of being able to focus on the clip, I couldn’t stop staring at those bizarre psychedelic bars.
Devotees of Siskel & Ebert and Ebert & Roeper, what do you think of the new At the Movies? Do you miss the old hosts, or enjoy this format better?