"Remembering Gene Siskel" marked a touching, yet funny, tribute from Roger Ebert of his late partner
With only a few hours before the final "At the Movies" program with current hosts Michael Phillips and A. O. Scott airs, I'm reviewing once again a previous episode. This time it's Roger Ebert doing a tribute broadcast of his late colleague Gene Siskel who had just died several days before. We see Gene, in archive footage, revisiting his first times going as a child to the Norwalk Theatre which was eight blocks from his home, his early TV exposure on WBBM-TV, his and Roger's initial foray on a local public broadcasting show called "Opening Soon at a Theatre Near You", and many clips of that show's transition into "Sneak Previews" where one of that show's segments was an ending bit called "Dog of the Week" where-with various canine animals-both Gene and Roger individually pick their worst films, of the Grindhouse/Drive-In variety, not included in the set list of movies they review together each week. There's also some stuff they did with David Letterman with one segment having Roger getting a basketball through a hoop and another one where Gene does. In fact, Gene was such a big fan of that sport, he often got to do the Chicago Bulls interviews after the winning games for his station. One of the most humorous segments has Roger showing an episode of the animated series "The Critic" they both voiced that proved quite funny when they sang badly and touching when it used a parody of "Sleepless in Seatle" to bring these two back together after a temporary split. In the end, Roger mentions the frequently asked question of whether the two hated each other which he replies in the negative. He also mentions that the show would continue with guest critics and Gene would have wanted it that way because of the discussions that would ensure. Most touching of all was the ending when-during the audio of Dooley Wilson singing "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca-we see the various pictures of Gene through his life. While the show did do fairly well without him with first Richard Roeper replacing him and then Phillips and Scott basically making the two Bens from the previous season a gratefully brief mistake corrected, Siskel's presence, not to mention Ebert's due to his surgery complications, is still missed these many years later. An end of an era was duly marked with his passing.
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