Well lookee here, I’m participating in another blogathon! This time it’s 18cinemalane’s Siskel & Ebert At The Blogathon, which honors the iconic film critic duo of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. For my part, I decided to look at something Siskel & Ebert-related that doesn’t get as much attention as their reviews.
For those of you who are unaware, The Critic was a short-lived but popular animated series by The Simpsons writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss. It aired on ABC in 1994 before moving to Fox for its second and final season in 1995. It centers on Jay Sherman, the titular film critic (played by Jon Lovitz) and his life, focusing mainly on the colorful cast of friends, family and coworkers, and the many, many bad movies he’s stuck reviewing.
The highest compliment I can give The Critic is that it combines the best of The Simpsons (no big surprise there) and the best of Family Guy; its humor bounces between hilarious parodies of contemporary and classic films, playful dialogue, and zany surreal moments that you can only get away with in animation. Its characters are just as good as the casts from either of the aforementioned shows, and there’s barely a stinker in the entire series’ run. But perhaps the most fondly remembered episode is Season 2’s “Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice”, aka, the one that stars Siskel and Ebert playing themselves.
Siskel and Ebert are not the first recognized film critics to be featured in this series; Rex Reed and Gene Shallit also appeared multiple times. They even have a few lines in this very episode. As a matter of fact, Siskel and Ebert reviewed the first few episodes of The Critic on their show – and gave it a thumbs down. This isn’t a reflection of the series or their judgement, however. The problem is ABC aired the episodes out of order. After the pilot was supposed to come the official second episode “Miserable”, a humorous take on Stephen King’s Misery, but for whatever reason they showed the less interesting “Marty’s First Date” instead. It affected Siskel and Ebert’s view of the show overall despite their high praise for the movie spoof segments. But how does their premiere in the world of prime-time animated television hold up?
I think we’re in great hands.