Once television's most conspicuous film reviewer, Roger Ebert lost his voice to thyroid cancer in 2006. The Pulitzer-Prize-winning critic continued to write, however, and even became a celebrated online presence with more than 315,000 Twitter followers. Now he's returning to TV with a revival of his "At the Movies" series debuting January 21 on PBS. Here are 5 things to know about the show, and Ebert's comeback:
1. He's not the host
Though Ebert isn't one of the show's hosts, he will appear on-air each episode in a short segment called "Roger's Office," delivering "rants and raves." He's also an executive producer.
2. He'll use a computerized voice
During his segments, Ebert will talk by typing words into a computer that replicates his original voice (based on old recordings) using special software. (Watch Ebert speaking with his new voice on "Oprah" last year.) I give his new/old voice "a heartwarming thumbs up," says Brian Moylan at Gawker.
3. He'll wear a prosthetic chin
The critic, who also lost a portion of his jawbone in his battle with cancer, will wear a silicone prosthetic over his neck and lower face. "That's not to fool anyone, because my appearance is widely known," Ebert says. But it "will be a pleasant reminder of the person I was for 64 years... Symbolically, it's as if my illness never happened and, hey, here I still am, on the show with these new kids. When people see the 'Roger's Office' segment, they'll notice my voice more than my appearance."
4. One of the co-hosts is a 24-year-old newcomer
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky — a contributor to Mubi.com and the Chicago Reader — was "plucked out of near-obscurity" to co-host the show. Ebert contacted Vishnevetsky about auditioning for the show after overhearing him chatting with a colleague in a Chicago screening room. He's the "luckiest 24-year-old in the world," says Keith Staskiewicz in Entertainment Weekly.
5. The other is a veteran critic
Christy Lemire, a veteran film reviewer with the Associated Press, will serve as the other co-host. She's filled in as a host on previous incarnations of "At the Movies" and says she's learned a lot from watching Ebert. "There is never any snobbery about him, never any condescension. He’s completely open every time he walks into a screening to the possibility of being dazzled."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What is driving the increasingly weird behavior of the polar jet stream?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- Christians have no moral rationale for spanking their children
- Should you hope to die at 75? Absolutely not.
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Tony Blair: The Cassandra of the Middle East
- Why America should team up with Bashar al-Assad's regime
Subscribe to the Week