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Roger Ebert to use computer voice in new 'At the Movies' review show

09/10/2010 by Corinne Heller

Film critic Roger Ebert and his devoted wife, Chaz, talk about his new computerized voice to WLS-TV Chicago, the sister station of KABC, OnTheRedCarpet.com's parent company, in March 2010. (Photo courtesy of WLS) Roger Ebert has landed a new PBS program called Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies, a revival of a show that used his copyrighted "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down" format, about four years after he lost the ability to speak due to reconstructive surgeries for thyroid cancer.

Ebert will "employ a computer voice to appear on every episode" and classic, new and "overlooked" films will be reviewed, his website states.

"This is the rebirth of a dream," it quoted him as saying. "American television is swamped by mindless gossip about celebrities, and I'm happy this show will continue to tell viewers honestly if the critics think a new movie is worth seeing."

Since 2006, Ebert, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, has continued to review films and post messages on his Twitter account, which is followed by more than 235,000 people. He also communicates via Post-it Notes and by typing into a computer, which then reads out his text aloud.

The original At the Movies had several show titles and began in 1975, airing on the Chicago-based PBS station WTTW. It featured Ebert's longtime friend and fellow film reviewer Gene Siskel, who died of brain cancer 1999. It began airing nationally in the 1980s.

Richard Roeper replaced Siskel after his death and Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz took over for both him and Ebert in 2008. A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips replaced the two in 2009 and the show was canceled earlier this year. Disney-ABC Domestic Television, OnTheRedCarpet.com's parent company, had said the show was "no longer sustainable from a business perspective."

Ebert expressed sadness at the cancellation of the show and said at the time he was working on a new film review series. He and his wife Chaz are producers of his new program, which will air in January 2011.The main co-hosts will be Associated Press film critic Christy Lemire and Elvis Mitchell of NPR. Among the contributors are movie bloggers Kim Morgan and Omar Moore.

The show will bring back the copyrighted "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down" format made famous by Siskel and Ebert, who said he will not debate with the two co-hosts, adding: "They'll be awarding the Thumbs, and you can't have three Thumbs."

Check out an interview with Roger Ebert from March, in which he spoke about the way he communicates post-surgery, courtesy of WLS Television in Chicago, the sister station of KABC Television, OnTheRedCarpet.com's parent company:


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