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Roger Ebert Pleads, ‘Save My Show!’

The Projector

After a somewhat shaky start -- to be expected, perhaps, when a show's hosts are only just meeting each other -- "Ebert Presents At The Movies" has found its groove in recent weeks and has become, if not essential viewing just yet, a warm and intelligent respite from ... well, everything else on television. Hosts Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and Christy (Friend Of The Projector) Lemire are two people who love film and love talking about it in an accessible, rational and good-hearted way, clearly taking their cue from Roger Ebert, the show's benefactor and inspiration. Find us another show on television that talks about movies as movies, rather than as a celebrity-delivery system. The show is finding its legs. It's becoming what we'd hoped it would be. So, this of course means it might be going off the air.

In a typically forthright blog post last night, Ebert explained that if the show doesn't get funding from either fans or some benevolent corporate sponsor, it could cease production by the end of the year.

We can't afford to support the show any longer. That's what it comes down to. Chaz has been the heroine here. As executive producer, she did all the heavy lifting. When the first package of shows played, she told me we should stay on the air from autumn through December. "It's a beautiful show," she told me. "Christy and Ignatiy have found their groove. We've paid for the backdrops and sets. It's the show we dreamed of. Let's give it one more chance." We did. But now American Public Television wants to know if they can tell their member stations we'll be back in 2012. We have to give them our answer this month. Unless we find underwriting, I'm afraid our answer will have to be "no." Chaz says she still has a few more days to keep making calls.

Ebert, reasonably, doesn't say precisely how much the show needs to keep going, but, doing back of the envelope math, it appears to be roughly in the $100,000 range, or more. (The vagaries of public television financing, suffice it to say, have changed a lot in the last 25 years.) Ebert hasn't set up a Kickstarter page or anything, though you can probably expect that to happen in the next 24 hours or so. That could just be a short-term fix, though, buying a year, tops. What "Ebert Presents At The Movies" needs is a corporate sponsor willing to finance the show itself, essentially, as in the days of G.E. True Theater or something. The show needs to be called "Google Presents Ebert Presents At The Movies." That's not a bad idea, actually.

And hey, if they need to boost ratings, Lemire has clearly proven she can do that.

Seriously, though: The world's a worse place if it can't figure out a way to keep a modestly budgeted, niche show like "Ebert Presents At The Movies" on the air, somewhere. Anybody out there got a rich parent who likes movies?

The chimes at midnight [Roger Ebert's Journal]