The Greg Brady Project

Welcome to the official Barry Williams' blog

My friends call me Barry. From time to time I also hear the name Greg. Yeah, as in Greg Brady. The Brady Bunch represents a fun time in my life. But it’s only part of the story. There’s more to say and that’s what The Greg Brady Project is all about – a place to say it. So, I’ve invited some friends to join me and share their perspectives on the Brady’s, the 70′s and just about everything else. Now, I’m inviting you…

22 Jul
Bob Hunt

Curtains in the Era of Metamedia

written by Bob Hunt in Blog | No comments

 ‘All Thumbs Down’
‘All Thumbs Down?’

There’s a lot of hubbub going on right now about the departure of film critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper from their long-running syndicated review show, At the Movies. This is understandable, as any television program that has been around in one form or another for the last 33 years qualifies as an institution of its medium. An entire generation has grown up taking for granted the presence of a pair of Chicago critics commenting on the latest releases from opposite sides of the aisle. The thumbs-up, thumbs-down gimmick introduced by Ebert and Gene Siskel on the first incarnation of the show, PBS’s Sneak Previews, grew so popular as a movie poster endorsement that it began to lose its impact, forcing the critics to invent absurd shades of recommendation like two thumbs up – way up. Like any other TV entity that has been with us for decades, it is hard for us to imagine its disappearance. However, although Disney apparently intends to reinvent the show with different hosts, I would argue that At the Movies and other television programs of its ilk have outlived their utility in the digital age.

Consider the media landscape when Sneak Previews debuted in 1975. Newspaper critics and academics were the font of film criticism, and although Gene Shalit was already chatting about the cinema on The Today Show, television was not a standard medium for informed movie reviews. In the theaters, feature films were preceded by a handful of previews, none of which were available on-demand via a worldwide network of connected computers. Watching Sneak Previews seemed like exactly what its title promised: enjoying exclusive access to scenes you might not catch anywhere else, with the added bonus of commentary from a couple guys who knew a thing or two about movies. Not only did they review the major releases, they also offered their opinions on obscure foreign titles that were unlikely to feel the heat of a projector bulb outside of select major cities. My father and I still laugh about the clip featuring a German man talking to his beer, which Siskel and Ebert included in their review of Berlin Alexanderplatz, a 1980 import that ran fifteen and a half hours! Curiously, it never made its way to our local multiplex.

But what does it all matter today? It seems to me like we have more metamedia (that is, media commenting on media) than original media now, with this very post falling into a subcategory of metametamedia. The idea of bothering with a TV program to obtain film commentary seems rather quaint when multiple trailers and reviews from around the world are a mouse click away. Press kits once available only to critics now appear in expanded form as official movie websites, overflowing with photos, clips, bios of the cast and crew, and often more information than the general public would ever care to know. You can easily find critics to suit your cinematic tastes, from the snootiest students of film theory down to the everyday Joe who simply knows what he likes. In short, if contemporary audiences want to know what’s going on At the Movies, there is no longer a need for Sneak Previews. That sort of metamedia information is already out there, abundantly.

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