Looks like Disney-ABC Domestic Television will want to change the name of the syndicated show. Both Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper say they will no longer be associated with the show, which Disney plans to take in a new direction.
Ebert has not been on the air for the past two years, because he has been battling cancer, which has left him unable to speak. He co-founded the movie review show with Gene Siskel 33 years ago and Roeper became co-host after Siskel’s death from a brain tumor in 1999.
Roeper announced Sunday that with his contract due to expire at the end of the 2007-2008 season, Disney offered to extend his contract a few months ago, but he decided to wait. “Much transpired after that behind the scenes, but an agreement was never reached, and we are all moving on,” he said.
Then yesterday Ebert posted an announcement on his website: “After 33 years on the air, 23 of them with Disney, the studio has decided to take the program named ‘Siskel & Ebert’ and then ‘Ebert & Roeper’ in a new direction. I will no longer be associated with it. The show was a wonderful experience. It was a great loss to me when surgery in July 2006 made it impossible for me to appear on the air any longer. Although I remained active behind the scenes, I feel that Richard Roeper and several co-hosts, notably Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott, have excelled at carrying on the tradition Gene Siskel and I began in 1975 with ‘Sneak Previews’ on PBS.”
Ebert noted that he and Siskel’s widow, Marlene Iglitzen, still own the trademark to “Two thumbs up.” The thumbs, he said, will return. “We are discussing possibilities, and plan to continue the show’s tradition.”
As for the Disney-ABC syndicated show, Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal reported that the producers are looking to recreate it as something more akin to “Entertainment Tonight,” which is from rival CBS Television Distribution.