It can’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that ABC Media Productions is replacing Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz as hosts of At the Movies, the syndicated series originated by Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel. Not after the drubbing the two Bens took in the press ever since they were hired a little over a year ago. I don’t want to kick anybody while he’s down, so I’ll just say that based on my limited viewing of the past season of At the Movies, Lyons and Mankiewicz were indeed no Siskel and Ebert. (Ebert agreed.) Then again, who is?
More interesting is where At the Movies is headed next. ABC has already announced Lyons and Mankiewicz’s replacements: the New York Times‘ excellent A.O. Scott and the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips. Both of those guys are seasoned, respected film critics who come from the world of newspapers, unlike their immediate predecessors. Their hiring seems like an attempt to make full amends for the Ben-and-Ben fiasco. Last year, the studio promised to explore “a new direction” for At the Movies; now they’re ready to “take the series back to its roots of one-on-one film debate that was established when the show first began.” Never mind the fact that even some people who weren’t very enthusiastic about the new hosts last year acknowledged that the show’s format needed some shaking up.
And so At the Movies awaits your thumbs-up or -down once again. Is all forgiven now? What do you think about the choice of Scott and Phillips as the show’s new cinematic authorities?