Aside from being Roger’s wife and partner in life for 24 years, my movie viewing was also influenced by Siskel and Ebert. They started on public television in Chicago, WTTW, in 1975, and remain part of the zeitgeist, influencing how we watch movies, even to this very day. So when I was contacted by Brian Raftery for The Ringer’s (Spotify) proposed series, I knew I was at once both excited about the prospect of it, but at the same time, of course, very protective of their legacy.
I was away at the Cannes Film Festival when it first came out, and I have now caught up with it. I knew one thing before I tuned in—I was sure there would be parts that I would like and parts that I would find less flattering, but the one thing I knew for sure was that both Roger and Gene, as critics, could dish it out, but they could also take it, so for whatever was in store, I felt, 'Bring it on!' Well, on the basis of the four episodes that have aired thus far, you are in for a great ride! I know for certain that both Roger and Gene would give Brian Raftery their trademark "Two Thumbs Up!"
Episode One, "I Must Destroy Him," premiered on July 20th and featured yours truly, Marlene Iglitzen (wife of Gene), filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, "Sneak Previews" creator Thea Flaum, "Siskel & Ebert" producer Nancy De Los Santos, and "Pardon the Interruption" creator Erik Rydholm. This episode serves as an enticing introduction to the eight-part series, in which Raftery explains "how two megastar movie critics created media as we know it."
Episode Two, "Is the Room Big Enough for Both These Guys?", also premiered on July 20th and added "Siskel & Ebert" producer Ray Solley, "Siskel & Ebert" producer Jim Murphy, journalist Dave Price and film critic Carrie Rickey to its roster of interview subjects. This episode delves into Roger and Gene's respective paths toward film criticism, and their passion for such cinematic classics as "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Saturday Night Fever."
Episode Three, "The Thumbs," premiered on July 27th and welcomed filmmakers Ramin Bahrani and Justin Lin as well as "Siskel & Ebert" associate producer Carie Lovstad, film critic Alonso Duralde and television critic Tom Shales. This episode insightfully dissects Roger and Gene's Midwestern approach to criticism and how they were able to deliver top-drawer analysis in a way that was accessible and engaging to a national mainstream audience.
Episode Four, "Top Guns," premiered August 3rd, and includes even more new voices: film producer Jesse Beaton and Buena Vista Television executive Jamie Bennett. In this episode, Raftery explores the enormous influence of Roger and Gene's reviews, particularly their championing of smaller pictures that otherwise could have easily slipped through the cracks, notably "My Dinner with Andre," which attributed its success at the box office to the duo of critics.
So I invite you to drop into the "Gene and Roger" podcast on Tuesdays at The Ringer. Also be sure to check out our special edition of "Siskel & Ebert" Thumbnails, as well as our reprint of Donald Liebenson's 1995 article for The Los Angeles Times about the twentieth anniversary of "Siskel & Ebert." Below you will find an embedded video of a "Short History of Siskel & Ebert on Television." And please write to me at email@example.com or comment here to tell me what you think about the podcast.