Michael Phillips — the Chicago Tribune‘s movie critic and the former theater critic for the Dallas Times Herald — has been picked to fill the well-worn, well-thumbed aisle seats in the syndicated series, At the Movies. (Get it? well-thumbed? Siskel and Ebert? OK. I’ll stop).
Phillips and the NYTimes critic, A. O. Scott, will replace the not-widely-respected Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz. Michael Phillips and I were drama critic-competitors in Ye Olde Days but that raging animosity has mellowed into ordinary, friendly resentment. I kid. I love the guy. Hey, he gave my wife and me a baby shower gift. So I’ve picked the most unflattering picture of him I could find.
In Dallas, At the Movies screens at the must-sleep-TV time slot of 11 p.m. on Sundays on WFAA, which explains why you haven’t seen it lately. But the LATimes’ Patrick Goldstein believes you haven’t seen it lately for another reason. The ‘two Bens’ were “an embarrassment to all, meaning the previous hosts, the network and the critical profession in general,” so it’s good they’re gone. But more than that, he believes that the-movie-critics-on-TV format is covered in cobwebs. I hope the best for Michael — honestly — but Goldstein may have a point here. Unfortunately for them, Phillips and Scott “are being asked to revive a format that is as moribund as a black-and-white detective series.”