Roger Ebert thinks the end is near, or at least the end of the party we call the American century (“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”). Michael Miner disagrees (“the larger truth is that people do not ‘reel.’ They get about their lives”).

It is a minor point, but worth adding:

1. Siskel & Ebert At the Movies, which was surprisingly engaging for its necessary brevity, lost Siskel, who was replaced by the inexhaustibly shallow Richard Roeper. Being a pessimist, I thought this was another symptom of the decline of the American empire.

2. As if to mock my self-identification as a pessimist, Ebert and Roeper were replaced by two legacy hires, the serviceable Ben Mankiewicz and the slick, young, horrid Ben Lyons, subject of a remarkably one-sided hit piece in the LA Times and proprietor of the weirdly compelling photo gallery “Ben Lyons Poses [Awkwardly] With Famous  People [Whom You May Have to Google].” (I do hope he continues it; as an accidental art project it might actually be interesting.)

I figured the decline was accelerating.

3. From the LA Times piece: “Ratings for the new ‘At the Movies’ are at 1.8 million total viewers, down 21% compared with the same period last year, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research. Comparative viewership also dropped by double digits in every key demographic except for males 18 to 34, for whom it’s down only 4%.” 

4. Management claims that a “revamped” AtM is better and more successful. I am rooting against the show in the hopes that it, among so many other things these days–unemployment, newspapers, etc–has actually reached a natural bottom, and that the show’s failure can be shoehorned into some argument that weird-looking people with qualifications who care about things are more saleable than people who want to be on your television so they can make fake gang signs with actors you might have heard of.