Siskel and Ebert - Behind the Scenes
May 12, 2006 12:01 PM   Subscribe

1987 - Siskel and Ebert - Behind the scenes: Part 1 (28mb), Part 2 (16mb), Part 3 (18mb). Each segment is about three to four minutes long. For those of us who grew up with these guys on TV, almost 20 years ago, this is a side you've never dreamed of. Part one ends on a down-note, but parts two and three...worth the watch. (language NSFW)
posted by rougy (53 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't watched these yet, but I'm gonna thank you anyways because I just loved these two so much, and I'm still sad that Siskel died, and well, any opportunity to see them together is one that's sure to be enjoyable.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:06 PM on May 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I grew up on the north shore of chicago, and Siskel used to go to my see him around the high holidays and the occasional other holiday, but never had a chance to meet him. I was really young though, i only knew of him because of my parents...these movies should help me out
posted by Kifer85 at 12:24 PM on May 12, 2006 least now i know siskel wasn't the asshole.
posted by Kifer85 at 12:29 PM on May 12, 2006

Wow, that's...terrible. That's not kidding around or shtick they're unloading there. That's loathing. The two sound near tears at the pain of having to sit near each other.

I feel sorry for the crew. You hear them required to laugh as these two do little bits about what a fuckin' idiot the other is, while they (the crew) are probably thinking can we just film these assholes and go home.

Bad scene all around.
posted by argybarg at 12:34 PM on May 12, 2006

Wow, were their offscreen jibes at LAME. The white man's verswion of doing the dozens. As if anyone on crew cares what they order at McDonalds.

I miss the good old days of them sniping on air. Roeper's nice-guy deference is so damn boring.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:36 PM on May 12, 2006

Siskel seemed very drunk to me.
posted by flarbuse at 12:36 PM on May 12, 2006

argybarg, watch Part 3. It's clear that underneath the griping and insults, there was also genuine affection.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:39 PM on May 12, 2006

Part one was painful, and part two was much darker if you saw part one.

Part three, however, makes up for it.
posted by eriko at 12:41 PM on May 12, 2006

Saw it. Affection and hatred can coexist.
posted by argybarg at 12:42 PM on May 12, 2006

I saw something similar to this a while ago. Same type of content. They did not get a long at all - makes me wonder what other tv families have their problems.
posted by deviantlnx at 12:43 PM on May 12, 2006

Someone should take the end of part 3 "I already shot my wad on protestants" and append the Oozinator clip to it.
posted by coogerdark at 12:49 PM on May 12, 2006

Yes, siskel definitely seems drunk -- that was my first thought. I grew up on these guys, it's great to see them like this.
posted by about_time at 12:49 PM on May 12, 2006

Great find. Thanks for posting this.

I, too, was sad when Siskel died, though I had one hell of a laugh when The Onion ran the headline "Ebert Victorious". I haven't seen the show since then.
posted by rocketman at 1:01 PM on May 12, 2006

Seem like family. Hate and love all in one. Nice to see them more as human beings and not so polished.
posted by Bovine Love at 1:08 PM on May 12, 2006

I grew up in Chicago watching them too. It was a shame when Siskel died. This just went out to the family.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:43 PM on May 12, 2006

Siskel definitely seems on something but Ebert made me laugh hard with some of the wisecracks in video #3. Excellent post.
posted by secret about box at 1:53 PM on May 12, 2006

I enjoyed that immensely.
posted by spock at 2:03 PM on May 12, 2006

Siskel had a brain tumor... I'm assuming that's why he's speaking the way he is in these clips.
posted by mert at 2:15 PM on May 12, 2006

These are interesting--tense, funny, real. An interesting quote from this interesting essay about Ebert:
Those thumbs have since come to emblematize for some all that is wrong with film criticism. In a 1990 piece in Film Comment, Richard Corliss took Siskel and Ebert to task for contributing to the dumbing-down of criticism. "I simply don't want people to think that what they have to do on TV is what I am supposed to do in print," Corliss wrote, a stunningly highbrow reproach from a critic from Time.

But you can see what aggravated Corliss. Aspiring to be a serious show about movies, "Siskel & Ebert" instead offered shtick--those imperial thumbs, the occasional unscripted spat--and glib pronouncements. Although the show offered crucial exposure to some independent films, the focus was largely on studio movies that received wide releases. Covering about five movies per episode and devoting much of the time to a recitation of the plots, the show offered bite-sized commentary and didn't hide its consumer-oriented approach.
posted by LooseFilter at 2:17 PM on May 12, 2006

And I apparently should be interested in learning some more interesting adjectives.
posted by LooseFilter at 2:18 PM on May 12, 2006

Siskel didn't die of his tumor until 1999, and these movies are from 1987. Plus, Gene was usually better composed on air. I vote for drunk.
posted by blueshammer at 2:26 PM on May 12, 2006

Siskel definately came across boozy on the last one. I remember them fighting like fools on Letterman towards the end of Siskel's life. That lacked all the humor that can be found on the last link.
posted by Busithoth at 2:41 PM on May 12, 2006

must leave work... must watch...
posted by shmegegge at 2:47 PM on May 12, 2006

I'm pretty sure Siskel was drunk, but it's unfair of me to assume he was always like that.

I've been loosely involved with how shows like that are put together. They might have shot the show earlier in the day, on a Friday. Thinking it's a wrap, Siskel goes out to have a few drinks with some friends. Come four or five o'clock he gets a call that he needs to come back in and do the intro again....

I really liked both of those guys, though. Their sound-bite show aside, they were both serious about the movies.
posted by rougy at 2:48 PM on May 12, 2006

I didn't think it was that bad - first off, they're shooting promos, which has got to be the most repetitive, boring part of their week. Secondly, it was probably shot at the end of a day of shooting, so I imagine they just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Don't get me wrong, I know these two had a real love/hate relationship, but all things considered I didn't feel like there was any real venom in this piece. I'm sure all was forgotten the second they hit the bar after they finished shooting (or had Ebert given up the drink by then?).
posted by mzanatta at 2:50 PM on May 12, 2006

These are great- thanks for posting these.

They did not get a long at all

I have no doubt that they fought regularly (they're critics, it happens) and that Ebert made no qualms about who was (and still is, even more so) the Alpha Dog, but I think they were really fond of each other. I also wonder if Siskel wasn't drunk in the first video and Ebert wasn't just frustrated.

Roeper, you're no Siskel. I really wish it were Ebert and Medved. They'd probably never get around to actually reviewing movies, but man, that would be the most entertaining 1/2 hour on television...

Coogerdark- Wow, I had the exact same thought :)
posted by mkultra at 3:02 PM on May 12, 2006

These clips would fit well in an SCTV episode.
posted by juiceCake at 3:17 PM on May 12, 2006

> I miss the good old days of them sniping on air. Roeper's nice-guy deference is so damn boring.

Roeper's on-screen mellowness has always interested me; I've heard he's a pretty advanced martial artist (don't know what style) and it's fun to imagine him going all Chuck Norris Bea Arthur Bruce Lee on Ebert.
posted by jtron at 3:28 PM on May 12, 2006

After I watched the first one, I was pretty shocked about how vicious and mean they were, but then the second one put it in a ligther mood as it seemed they were having fun with one another, and then the third just lightened it up completely as they seemed to be having a grand old time.

Still messes with my perception of Ebert, though.
posted by xmutex at 3:36 PM on May 12, 2006

You know? I wonder if that tumor wasn't what was causing Gene's speech to slur. I don't think he was diagnosed at that time.
posted by rougy at 4:01 PM on May 12, 2006

Siskel acutally had a slur for many years -- I noticed this during their shows more towards the end of his life, but this is proof it went back much further than I remember. Also, you'll notice that Ebert directly makes fun of Siskel's speech difficulties during that awful "McDonalds" bit. That's either chummy or horrifying, I'm not sure which.
posted by scatman at 4:07 PM on May 12, 2006

This made my day. I was LMAO. They were the ones who turned me on to " Road Warrior" and "Blade Runner", amongst others. It was really cool to see them like this, especially #3. Great post. Thanks!
posted by sluglicker at 4:22 PM on May 12, 2006

Note in video #2 that Ebert also makes fun of Siskel's hand shaking, as well as general language difficulties (wrong wording, changing grammar midstream, etc.). I think it had to be the tumor. I remember that the symptoms became quite great toward the end of his work on the show. Yeah, it is horrifying in retrospect, but it seems like they were both aware of it and viewed it as a tic or something. He didn't have surgery until 1998, though.
posted by dhartung at 4:45 PM on May 12, 2006

Siskel was a schmuck.

"Chicago film critics who often attended the same screenings as Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were aware that Ebert was a hard-core film buff and Siskel, who died in early 1999, was someone whose interest in film, at least to all appearances, was almost exclusively professional (when he first started writing for the Chicago Tribune, his main beat was real estate). Ebert attends several film festivals every year. Siskel generally made it to few or none; he attended Cannes only once, as a TV reviewer in 1990, and showed no interest in returning, and one could surmise that his relatively low recognition factor abroad might have been partly to blame. Ebert reviews a good many film books, and to my knowledge Siskel never did; if he ever read any books about film on his own it would surprise me. Inside the profession, Siskel was famous for making so many gaffes about movies in his weekly print reviews that in the Reader Neil Tesser used to inventory them in an occasional Hot Type item called 'Siskel Watch'; Siskel's mistakes apparently became fewer after his copy began to be checked by others."
posted by soiled cowboy at 5:02 PM on May 12, 2006

I don't see loathing in these at all... I see two friends who were tired in the first one, and two buddies having a laugh in the other two... anyone who thinks that #2 is filled with loathing should watch it again...

And #3 was just hilarious

"Protestants: people who sorta want a religion"

comedy gold...
posted by WhipSmart at 5:22 PM on May 12, 2006

You're so fat you probably go to McDonalds and order everything on the menu, and the when they ask you if you want fries with that, you say you want everything to go with that. And then you probably eat the cashier, and go to Burger King and do the same thing, you're so fat.

- Gene Siskel channeling a six year old
posted by dgaicun at 5:23 PM on May 12, 2006

Why couldn't those guys be more civil to each other? Oh right - it wouldn't be as much fun.
posted by Decani at 5:57 PM on May 12, 2006

For some reason when I clicked on this I was thinking of Abbot and Costello, however I laughed my ass off through all 3 clips and thought they were hilarious. Good find rougy
posted by daHIFI at 6:05 PM on May 12, 2006

That's pretty terrific stuff.
Yeah, they were tired of each other and had some animosity but so what? Anytime you get television personalities with big egos working together you're bound to get fricition. But running all these togeher shows that they didn't seem to hate each other. They could laugh together.
posted by Rashomon at 6:11 PM on May 12, 2006

I remember a 60 Minutes profile of this pair that included the animosity between them:

Ebert (wandering into a screening room): Well, if it isn't the world's baldest film critic!

Siskel (already seated): If it isn't the world's latest film critic. (Mutters something about McDonald's)
posted by evilcolonel at 8:40 PM on May 12, 2006

The show needed the barely constrained animosity in order to work - that was the genius of it. Ebert is prominent enough to carry on solo nowadays (Roeper doesn't add much to the current incarnation of the show), but at the time the two really needed each other.

And I agree the soiled cowboy - Siskel was a bit of a schmuck. Far more interested in basketball and chatting with Michael Jordan than he was in seriously analyzing film. Ebert is a true film buff and an excellent writer. But as he's still alive, he doesn't have a film center named after him.

Anyway, this brought back a slew of memories. I'd watch their show with my parents every week and I remember it with great fondness.
posted by aladfar at 1:02 AM on May 13, 2006

awesome, thanks for posting this.

I notice they were mocking each other, that'd never fly on MeFi -- they'd get a dry e-mail from Matt asking them to tone down the snark. or something.
posted by matteo at 6:34 AM on May 13, 2006

Thanks. Amazing how much better Ebert looks now.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:02 AM on May 13, 2006

Good stuff. Proof that a shared contempt of Protestants can bridge any gap!

I notice they were mocking each other...blah*wank*blah*chortle*blah
posted by matteo

Really? Wow, I didn't pick up on it at first, but upon rewatching it, I did sense a somewhat hostile vibe running though it! Truly, your intuition and powers of perception are rivalled only by your ability to take pointless pot-shots that have sweet FA to do with anything!
Or was that an example of MeFi PoMo?

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:42 PM on May 13, 2006

Yeah, I didn't think that any of that was too serious either. They really did loathe each other when they started the show, but by 1987, when these clips were filmed, they definitely had developed respect for each other. Sure , there was antagonism too, but how many people who are forced to share ego space like that don't have some antagonism; they were very competitive. Roger was obviously the one who was the better writer and had a bigger appreciation of film, while Siskel was more of a reporter/go-getter who landed big interview.

The limited barbs that occurr between Ebert and Roeper these days are strictly about films and taste in films. The two simply aren't competitive in the least; they don't even have a beat in common.
posted by spira at 9:31 AM on May 14, 2006

I actually think you have to have a pretty tight friendship to trade barbs like this. Most of our relationships today are so sanitized.
posted by xammerboy at 5:26 PM on May 14, 2006

Awesome. Just awesome. I used to watch the show when I was a kid. It strikes me that I've probably never seen Ebert (or Siskel) laugh. Really a different side to both of them.

I was actually sad when Siskel died. I rarely watch the show now--Roeper is an absolute imbecile with generally horrible taste in movies. Ebert is still very enjoyable, even though I disagree with him about 25% of the time.
posted by zardoz at 3:19 AM on May 15, 2006

I think Ebert's respect for Siskel has grown over the years. I've just finished Ebert's "The Great Movies II", and in his reviews, he often talks about Siskel's perspective on the movie being reviewed, and on life in general, and it's always with genuine respect and admiration.

On to the other topic in this thread, I also really loathe Roeper. His "thumbs down" to Chicken Run, along with the vapid reasoning behind that review, cemented his position as a moron. Has Roeper ever given ANY animated movie a thumbs up?
posted by IvyMike at 1:12 PM on May 15, 2006

If they'd actually hated each other — if you take the animosity displayed in clip #1 at face value — then they wouldn't have done a show together for so many years.

The verbal barbs being exchanged in that clip strike me as simply the by-product of existing near somebody for so much of your day/week/career. I wouldn't expect them to make small talk during the breaks between recording promos; that'd get old really quickly.
posted by savetheclocktower at 1:17 PM on May 15, 2006

There was a profile of Ebert in Chicago Magazine* in December 2005, and the subject of his and Siskel's love-hate relationship was covered extensively. They hated each other passionately for a very long time, but by the mid '90s they were very close friends. They maintained the antagonistic attitude during tapings, but it became more of a friendly rivalry than sincere hatred, which it was in the early days.

Also, Ebert was an alcoholic in the '60s and '70s, but joined AA and got clean. If Siskel was indeed drunk at the taping, that would probably explain Ebert's attitude a bit.

* If that link doesn't work, do a "quick search" for Ebert from the main page and the article will be the first result.
posted by me3dia at 1:18 PM on May 15, 2006

I also really loathe Roeper

Man, who doesn't? You suck, Roeper.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:31 PM on May 15, 2006

It's with shocking reliability that I totally disagree with Ebert's reviews, and I've also had a rather bad feeling about him all around: this confirms that. I know it was ages ago and that he and Gene made up, but the guy is just a dick.
posted by coolhappysteve at 11:46 PM on May 15, 2006

Well, to quote a movie they both admired, this is un-f*cking-professional. In the thrid segment, listen to the producer practically pleading with them to settle down & start working. I wonder what the turnover rate on that crew must have been...
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:38 PM on May 17, 2006

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