If you're sad about the cancellation of At the Movies, cheer up. A new, better TV show could rise from the ashes of that 30-year review program, courtesy of its surviving co-creator Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz. On his blog, Ebert mourns the old show and explains why it died while talking up ideas for Roger Ebert presents At the Movies, which would be a lot less bound by promotion of new Hollywood releases and more a celebration and discussion of movies. Also, he says the Thumbs will return!

Okay, so the thumbs up, thumbs down idea is somewhat contradictory to the overall pitch given that, as iconic as the concept is, it's still basically a method of simply classifying movies as good or bad for easy employment by Hollywood marketers. But otherwise, I like the sound of the plans, which include integration of Ebert's Greatest Movies column, festival reports and more attention paid to stuff the audience can definitely view, whether it's streaming on the web or a classic film that's easily available from any number of home video sources. Here's what he says about the show's focus:
We'll also go New Cinema. Not just the One Weekend Wonders, although you gotta have 'em, but indie films, foreign films, documentaries, restored classics, the new Herzog, the new Bahrani, the new Almodovar. What's new on Instant Streaming. What great movies should everyone see? Hey, Paramount just announced $1 million for ten $100,000 movies. Those kinds of films. What kind of a real movie lover cares who has the "exclusive" first trailer in the newest extrusion of the "Transformer" franchise? It's time to smarten up.


Ebert won't be a strong presence on screen, though he says he'll hopefully appear now and then. His cancer-caused voice loss means he can't adequately participate in such a discussion forum. His new computer voice will possibly be heard in narration capacity, however. And he'll surely be a part of the show's expected web presence (maybe he'll even amp up his already overactive Twittering with another show-based feed). The actual hosts are unknown, but potential contenders have been screen tested -- sorry to all you movie bloggers who missed your chance to audition, but at least there's the Rotten Tomatoes Show, right?

I'd love to see Roger Ebert presents At the Movies evolve even further away from reviewing and recommending into something more like a movie club of sorts. Perhaps at the end of each show the legendary critic can introduce one of his Great Movies titles, which will be discussed more fully by the co-hosts in the next episode? Well, that could cause some trouble if there's only a week's notice, and a lot of viewers would just end up with a "very long wait" note on their Netflix queue. But I love the idea of a real discussion program (like a round table pundit program for cinema) and conversation-starter aimed at cineastes to watch with fellow movie lovers.

What would you like to see in Ebert's new show?