One could easily argue that cooler, more intelligent heads finally prevailed. After little over a year of lagging ratings and regular reputation hits, Disney has finally pulled the plug on its failing “youth” update of the classic Siskel and Ebert review series At the Movies. Replaced were the quote-whoring team of Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz, with an announced pairing of Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips and the New York Times’ A. O. Scott taking their place. The change represents the House of Mouse’s backhanded admission that their attempt at “dumbing down” the show for a perceived anti-critic demographic was about as successful as Will Ferrell taking on a classic kid’s show from the ‘70s. As flops go, it’s not a complete embarrassment, but it does speak to a bigger issue infiltrating the media today.
There is a mandatory mantra, spread among studios, film geeks, geek-oriented websites, and the members of messageboard nation that film critics don’t matter. They are a marginalized bunch, believed to be out of step with what mainstream audiences want, betrothed to their beloved arthouse fare while forsaking equally important genres like horror and/or family films. They are caricatured like Neo-con Republicans - white, aged, and about as hip as a mix tape from Dick Cheney - and blamed for every star-studded failure, regularly ridiculed for every cinematic rarity when personal opinion consensus just doesn’t match the box office returns (right, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?).