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Richard Roeper Plotting TV Comeback

Richard Roeper, who along with Roger Ebert last month signed off from Buena Vista Productions' At the Movies With Ebert & Roeper, is expected to announce a new show in the coming weeks. Roeper doesn't want to give up the details just yet, but says he will aim to carry on the tradition of the show, which started as Sneak Previews in 1978 and which Roeper co-hosted for eight years.

In the 30 years since the show began, film criticism has become a commodity, especially in recent times due to the immediate word-of-mouth afforded by the Internet. And any such project Roeper brings to market will compete with at least two nationally syndicated film criticism shows, the one he left (he and Ebert are being replaced by Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz) and NBC Universal's Reel Talk.

But he isn't remotely concerned about the competition. "There's room in the marketplace for a continuation of the most successful and the longest-running movie-review show in TV history: the show that was Siskel & Ebert, and then became Ebert & Roeper some eight years ago," he says.

Roeper says it remains to be seen whether Ebert will join the new show and endorse the re-introduction of the "thumbs" he controls and made famous with the late Gene Siskel.

The last real movie Roeper reviewed for At the Movies was Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. But one more review is due to air—on the Sept. 7 season premiere of HBO's Entourage. Roeper pans fictional film Medellin and gets panned right back by Jeremy Piven's bombastic character, agent Ari Gold. Roeper read the script and considered the ripping a compliment.

"Given that Ari has become one of the most iconic characters in TV history, it was quite an honor," Roeper says.

Entourage creator Doug Ellin says he had no idea Medellin would be Roeper's last At the Movies review.

"I'm kind of upset, I loved that show," the showrunner told B&C, adding that Roeper has the chops to switch gears for his next swing in TV and try acting—or writing scripted television.

"Maybe he'll do some acting, too," Ellin told B&C. "Everyone talks about improvisation on this show. [At the Movies then-temporary co-host] Michael [Phillips] and him made up their whole thing. We gave them scripts we wrote, and they said, 'What do you think if we did this?' It was much funnier than what we did. So they can write, too."

[For more with Ellin on Entourage, see Take Five on p. 2.]—Melissa Grego

Lower Third Under Siege

Last month, B&C featured a cover story about the battle for the lower third of the TV screen and how advertisers want to get some of their promos in that coveted space during programming. While networks have long been using the space to promote their shows and even sister networks, the arrival of the advertisers is slowly starting and we expect it to pick up.

So it came as little surprise when TNT detailed three new major sponsorship deals for its new Steven Bochco drama, Raising the Bar, and the pacts included on-screen presence during new, original episodes of the series.

Indeed, if you tune in to see some legal drama, sponsors hope you may find yourself wanting to grab a sandwich from Quiznos, an Altima from Nissan, or tickets to the upcoming flick Burn After Reading.

A network spokesperson says that the lower-third marketing will be subtle, and will not include logos or anything too distracting (as opposed to a much-maligned lower-third ad on TBS where Bill Engvall literally froze an episode of Family Guy in progress to promote his sitcom). Rather, the ads will be text, in the vein of "Raising the Bar, presented by Quiznos." Much better.

Who would have thought that less then a month after we posed the question whether it was going to happen, we can turn on the TV and see it in action? Turner's use in Raising the Bar may do exactly that for this type of advertising. And it's just a matter of time until more networks follow suit.—Alex Weprin