Roger Ebert: The Balcony is Closed


Today Roger Ebert posted a column discussing the end of his (and Richard Roeper's) involvement with the Ebert and Roeper movie review program. Ebert and Roeper was formerly known as Siskel and Ebert, until Gene Siskel's untimely death in 1999. Furthermore, Ebert himself hasn't been on the program at all since 2006 (due to complications from cancer surgery that affected his voice), so the original franchise has been completely Siskel- and Ebert-free for two years now. Anyway, Ebert's print columns have remained excellent during his time away from the show (his film criticism column is syndicated in 200 newspapers around the world, as well as online). Ebert's most recent column, entitled The Balcony is Closed, discusses his feelings about ending his involvement with the show that made him a household name for the past 33 years. Here's a sample:

...On Sunday afternoons before a taping, we would separately sit across [Thea Flaum's] dining room table from her and rehearse our scripts. We had "discussion points" we tried to memorize. We were bad at that. If one guy dropped a discussion point, the other guy got mad. "We can't remember these points," Gene said, "but we can talk to each other." During that first season (the show was called "Opening Soon at a Theater Near You"), the final format took shape. In the pub that day, Thea told us, "You boys have no idea how far this show is going to go. One day you'll be in national syndication. You'll be making real money. You wait and see." Her prophecy came true. The day we fully realized it in our guts, I think, was the first time we were invited to appear with Johnny Carson. We were scared out of our minds. We'd been briefed on likely questions by one of the show's writers, but moments before airtime he popped his head into the dressing room and said, "Johnny may ask you for some of your favorite movies this year." Gene and I stared at each other in horror. "What was one of your favorite movies this year?" he asked me. "Gone With the Wind," I said. The Doc Severinsen orchestra had started playing the famous "Tonight Show" theme. Neither one of us could think of a single movie. Gene called our office in Chicago. "Tell me some movies we liked this year," he said. This is a true story.

Read the rest for Ebert's heartfelt reminiscence on his long career in film criticism.