Sign of the times in the ’70s: two ink-stained newspaper movie critics – Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert – begin hosting a movie-review program on broadcast TV that consists of them showing movie clips and soberly talking to each other about things like the French New Wave.
Sign of the times in ’09: two Internet-savvy comics – Brett Erlich and Ellen Fox – begin hosting an interactive movie-review program, “The Rotten Tomatoes Show,” in conjunction with rottentomatoes.com, a Web site that aggregates major movie reviews and gives a numeric score to each film.
Launching this week on Current, the pop-culture cable channel that utilizes viewer-generated content, the show features the hosts cracking jokes and viewers uploading their video critiques or texting three-word reviews. The French New Wave probably won’t come up very often.
“When Siskel and Ebert were on TV, people looked to them and respected them. There isn’t anyone like that anymore and Rotten Tomatoes exists because there is no definitive critic,” says Erlich, who also appears on Current’s mock-news show, “InfoMania.”
“We want to really capture the voice of everyone out there who’s going to movies – from critics to normal moviegoers to comedians.”
The idea for the weekly, half-hour series was hatched by Current executives who approached Rotten Tomatoes nine months ago.
“They came to us with the idea of a branded show,” says Shannon Ludovissy, RT’s vice-president and general manager. “It felt like the perfect fit for our product and our brand.”
While “The Rotten Tomatoes Show” might be rife with attitude and snark, Erlich and Ludovissy say they’re quite serious about film.
“My Netflix queue is five or six screens long,” says Erlich, who has also done stints in an improv group and worked in the games/interactive division of a talent agency.
“I grew up where movies played a special role in my life – ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Real Genius.’ Whenever I was sick, I’d watch ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and I’d feel better.
“As things progressed, I started to take a more critical eye … I always loved talking about movies and I always do talk about movies.”
For example, Erlich’s still angry that “Gran Torino” (“I wanted to kill myself every five minutes”) and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” got so much acclaim.
“We’re going to be very honest, brutally honest,” he says.
Ludovissy says the intention of the show isn’t to try to put newspaper movie critics out of work.
“We definitely think that the critics’ point of view is really important and that, at Rotten Tomatoes, that’s what we’re all about,” he explains.
“But we understand it’s a new world and users are interested in what other users think. We have an active community who aren’t shy about saying what they think.”