Film critics on TV -- We grade the entertainment value of movie reviewers, from Gene Shalit to Roger Ebert

By Tim Appelo
Updated December 04, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

Season after season, the only stars who have truly lived without fear are the movie critics on television. Siskel and Ebert and the legion of TV flick-chat types they have launched could nit-pick movies to their hearts’ content without getting nitpicked in return. But not anymore. Isn’t it high time somebody turned the tables? Herewith are our reviews of the reviewers — graded not with regard to their power, prestige, or audience size, but for their intrinsic entertainment value.

Volume, volume, volume — nobody offers more insights per show than MST‘s Joel Hodgson and his robots, Crow and Tom Servo, who appear silhouetted in movie seats at the bottom of the screen, yapping to each other while the worst films ever made unreel in front of them: The Slime People, Teenage Caveman, Fire Maidens in Space. Caustic as alien blood, faster than Shaquille O’Neal on the rebound, the two make up to 800 smart remarks per movie. Of Crash of the Moons, they bray, ”Two frat boys in a butt-on collision!”

*Physical appearance: C- (Hodgson) B (Servo) B+ (Crow)
*Elocution: B+ (Hodgson, Servo, Crow)
*Critical acumen: A+
*Degree to which costumes would please Cindy Crawford: F
*Ability to balance Anne Sexton references with flatulence jokes: A+
*Overall amusement value: A+

Here is a relatively straightforward positive review by Elvis Mitchell, the most unpredictable critic on TV: ”Glengarry Glen Ross is a little showy and hateful, but it gets the job done!” Mitchell’s finest hour was his vicious PBS video, How to Make an Oliver Stone Movie. Using film clips and a sandbox full of dolls, Mitchell spelled out 10 easy do-it-yourself steps, then found all 10 outrageous clichés in the brief trailer for JFK. It was a cheap shot but just as funny as Mark Twain’s ”Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.”

*Physical appearance: A-
*Elocution: C
*Poise on camera: B
*Critical acumen: A-
*Degree to which clothes would please Cindy Crawford: B+
*Ability to dodge anchors’ requests for a straight answer on how good a movie is: A+
*Overall amusement value: A-

Once the most terrified pundit on TV, Chris Connelly has become the jauntiest. He’s like Kurt Loder with an emotion implant — jaded aplomb. His quips are shot from the hip (very hip), and his look is imperially slim. But Connelly is too cool to voice strong opinions: He lays it on you between the lines, in smirking asides. His like-I-care airs make his insights so light they float away. He has a hell of a mind — he ought to speak it now and then.

*Physical appearance: A+
*Elocution: A
*Critical acumen: A-
*Willingness to strike blows against the empire, pop inflated reputations: D
*Degree to which clothes would please Cindy Crawford: A+
*Probable ability to make up his entire monologue on the spot should his TelePrompTer black out: A+
*Overall amusement value: B-