BY JAMES DOOLITTLE Mom’s Italian. 100%. And while she could have poured the over-exuberant passion that is the genetic cross my people bear into anything obvious — food, language, Catholicism, music, Sophia Loren — she opted at an early age to funnel my genetic disposition into her love for the cinema. We’d go every week, right after church, our reward for the penance that was 10AM mass. And without cable television, without a VCR, my cinematic cravings were only sated on the homefront via the weekly sit-down with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Thankfully, then as now, they were accessible via rabbit ears.
As far as my wonder years go, there was nothing on television that proved more influential than Sneak Previews, the duo’s original incarnation of their Siskel & Ebert format which ran through 1982. In retrospect, I’d be hard pressed to not flag it as the best show ever. I shit you not. I’ll gladly go mano-e-mano with whatever overlauded American masterwork of scripted entertainment you can throw into the ring on this one, cochise. In my humble opinion, no American television program was as consistently intelligent, informative and — perhaps most importantly — flat out entertaining as the twentysome years that these two ruled the balcony; perhaps thousands of half hours that constitute, in retrospect, the greatest film class ever — for me, you, anyone. MORE