People die every day. Just like babies being born. It's a fact of life, and a part of nature. But when a television icon passes, it's a unique experience, as it always strikes the cultural collective heart chord of a time gone by. In the wake of the recent, but not surprising, passing of iconic movie critic Roger Ebert, his death also concludes an entire way in which we experience movie reviews on television.
When Siskel and Ebert (Gene Siskel predeceased partner Ebert by more than a decade) gave their legendary "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" during the long run of At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, depending on whom we favored, we would identify with them whether or not a movie was worth going to see. The conclusion of Ebert's passing gives rise to "thumbs up" of not two movie critics shelling out their point of view, but a new generation of individuals who vote their favorites by Rotten Tomatoes or social media spread. The dynasty of this legendary duo ends their opinion as a one way communication and gateways our individual opinion making up the whole. For my 13-year-old niece, who lives and dies by the many counts of thumbs-up "likes" throughout all social media sites, she could never relate to, nor beyond a trace of memory, know the significance of a collective, but also personal, passing of Roger Ebert. So collective of an experience like Roger Ebert -- not just the greatness of the person, but of what his presence on television represented -- that even president Obama and the first lady issued their condolences.
The torch of a new generation was also passed on New Year's Eve 2013 when American Idol's Ryan Seacrest took to the helm of the late Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve and tweeted the night away with his followers, and I'm not referring to Michael Jackson's "Tweet Tweet" from the Hit Song "Rockin Robin" (as performed in 1972 on Dick Clark's American Bandstand).
As television touches us in a different way, as it's in our homes and in our bedrooms, we feel the losses such as the neighborly friend passing of Huell Howser, California's Gold, in a different way than we do our movie stars, politicians, and newsmakers. Our television hosts tend to be our neighbors, like the late Mister Rogers would sing.
When we receive these television personalities, like Pat "I'd like to buy a vowel" Sajak on long-running Wheel of Fortune, in our home day in day out for decades, and go to bed with The Late Show with David Letterman, they become a part of us, and a part of our lives, if only in the background.
The third generation of late night is about to begin as Jimmy Fallon takes the baton from Jay Leno, who was shepherded in after 25 years of Johnny Carson, and so the beat goes on. And like Ryan Seacrest, stepping in flawlessly, like he was destined to fill Dick Clark's big shoes, the torch is passed to the next generation on television.
However, as perfect as Ryan Seacrest seemed destined to fill Dick Clark's shoes, it will be all of us participating in filling Roger Ebert's shoes with our own "thumbs up," "thumbs down" as we now have the ability to tell our own movie review through the technological portals of 2013.
No matter which way our thumbs point, "We'll see you at the movies."
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