CHICAGO – Film critic Roger Ebert, who lost his ability to speak and eat after cancer surgeries, said Friday that he is returning to television on a movie review show that he is producing for public television.
And, Ebert says, the thumbs up and thumbs down reviews made famous with his late partner Gene Siskel will return.
"This is the rebirth of a dream," Ebert said in a statement.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Sun-Times film critic is producing "Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies" with his wife, Chaz Ebert. The weekly, half-hour review program will debut in January and be syndicated nationally on public television stations.
The show will feature co-host Christy Lemire of The Associated Press and contributing critic Elvis Mitchell of National Public Radio and former movie critic for The New York Times. Ebert will have his own segment on the show called "Roger's Office," during which he will use his computer voice to review new movies or talk about the state of film.
In a pilot of the new show, Ebert is shown sitting behind a desk, typing his review of a documentary. The computer voice says his words as he discusses the film. As Ebert finishes his review, he says: "I think it's a real discovery on DVD and I give it a big thumbs up." And he does.
"(Roger Ebert) felt that there's still a need for a straight forward movie review show to tell you whether or not a critic thinks the movies are worth seeing," Chaz Ebert said in an interview. "Christy and Elvis sat in for Roger at various times in his absence and we thought they were smart and vibrant and exciting critics."
Earlier this year, Disney-ABC Domestic Television announced the cancellation of "At The Movies," the successor to Ebert's review programs with Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and later with the Sun Times' Richard Roeper.
The new show features Lemire and Mitchell sitting in red movie theater seats debating back and forth about a movie before issuing a thumbs up or thumbs down review, not unlike Siskel and Ebert years before.
Lemire said Siskel was an inspiration when she was starting out as a film critic and she finds it humbling to be on the same show as Ebert.
"He's better than ever," she said. "Viewers who love the show and watched it for decades will be thrilled to see him back."
She also says her goal is to expose viewers to movies they might not have heard of before.
"We're elated that Christy has been picked to help lead this new show," said Lou Ferrara, AP's managing editor for entertainment. "Christy's insightful reviews are read by millions worldwide — movies still matter — and we believe she is a great match for this program."
Rich Moskal, head of the Chicago Film Office, said Ebert's return to the small screen will be welcomed by his loyal fans and followers.
"He has forged new territory with film criticism throughout his career and taken it places it hasn't been before in popularizing it and making it accessible," Moskal said. "This is just another step in that direction."