What had previously been a clever mash-up of user-generated reviews of week-old box office releases was transformed into a cookie-cutter professional-critic soapbox of upcoming releases. User-generated content was trimmed to a one-minute Question of the Day determining the "Worst Comic Book Movie."
Viewers called out the show's bait-and-switch in the comments, leaving a whopping 76 comments compared to the five-ish comments the show typically scores. Reactions ranged from "can you guys bring the old show back?" to "was that a boom mic or a gun to Brett's head"?
Whoever green-lighted the "upgrade" seriously overlooked Current TV & Rotten Tomatoes' demographics. Current TV, for the unfamiliar, is sort of like how New Yorkers would do television if New Yorkers weren't literate enough for print. It's self-aware, a little sarcastic, and most of all, it's young.
The "glorious polyamorous marriage of critique" every week was exactly the innovative, Web 2.0-y feature that caused young viewers like yours truly to add Rotten Tomatoes to their Thursday night line-up. While some of the user-generated content had been clips of professional critics or comedians in front of their Macbooks, a great portion of reviewers were just people at home, talking about their latest trip to the movies.
Unlike critics, the average joes weren't necessarily compelled to comment solely on plot, pacing, and characterization. They poked fun at actors' bad career choices or at the nauseating use of shaky-cam. The amateurs on Rotten Tomatoes were that funny friend who kept whispering funny things into your ear at the theater until your laughter caused the guy in front of you to turn around and glare.
Bottom line: Rotten Tomatoes was something new for the movie review genre. Sorry, TV execs: the people who watch Rotten Tomatoes aren't interested in another At the Movies. At the Movies has become the old geezer of movie critique: it's old and lifeless, it talks to you about its opinions on things you don't care about, and as of a March 24th announcement, it's being shuttled off to the broadcasting old folks home called cancellation.
Even if Rotten Tomatoes is aiming to be another dialogue-between-critics program, it fell flat for this episode. There's a lot of things to like about the hosts of Rotten Tomatoes, from Brett's self-conscious, corny jokes to Ellen's "I'm just hot enough to realistically be on television AND your best friend" aesthetic. But neither have the fire (or hatred for each other) that Ebert and Siskel had that made At the Movies in its heyday successful. For the first "new format" episode, Brett and Ellen's opinions universally matched. Snore! On top of that, dialogue or interaction between the guest critics and hosts was absent. It felt like the show's producer had gone out, kidnapped critics, and filmed them in their green-screened isolation chambers.
Rotten Tomatoes, change back immediately. Or at least hire a better designer to make your green-screen graphic.
Mary Shyne is a recent NYU grad with a BA in English, which is to say I live in Brooklyn and eat a lot of canned food from Associated. You can read her blog here.