Long-running syndie skein that taped in Chicago, went through several name changes and made TV stars out newspapermen Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert has been canceled. The final program will air Aug. 14.
“This was a very difficult decision, especially considering the program’s rich history and iconic status within the entertainment industry, but from a business perspective it became clear this weekly, half-hour, broadcast syndication series was no longer sustainable,” said Disney-ABC Domestic Television in a statement released late Wednesday afternoon.
Current hosts A.O. Scott of the New York Times and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune took over in September 2009 for Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies and Ben Lyons of E!, who lasted about a year. Lyons received a fair share of public ridicule from cinephiles when he was named host because of his relatively young age and lack of experience in film criticism.
Siskel and Ebert were the first hosts of the program, originally titled “Sneak Previews,” that aired on Chicago’s public broadcasting channel in 1975. In 1986, the show was sold to Disney and received national exposure.
Following Siskel’s death in 1999, Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times shared hosting duties with Ebert — the title was changed to “Ebert & Roeper” — and the pair stayed together until the 2006-07 season when Ebert was battling health issues and had to depart. Guests hosts joined Roeper until Mankiewicz and Lyons began their one-year run.
Added Disney: “We gratefully acknowledge the outstanding work of the program’s current co-hosts A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips and top-notch production staff, and it is with heartfelt appreciation that we extend very special thanks to the two brilliant, visionary and incomparable critics that started it all, Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel.”