Rich Roeper just can't get enough

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Posted by Fil-Am MegaScene on January 10, 2011 at 05:36:33:

You’d think that being the star columnist for a daily newspaper, the co-host of a top-rated radio talk show, and a movie critic whose reviews are seen by millions on cable and online would be more than enough work for anyone.

Unless you’re talking about Richard Roeper.

In addition to juggling all of the above, the 51-year-old Chicago media icon has set his sights on yet another role: game show host. Roeper recently produced and hosted a pilot for a TV quiz show in which teams of ordinary moviegoers compete for prizes — ranging from giant tins of popcorn to trips to Hollywood red-carpet premieres — by answering film-related questions. (Sample query: “In which movie did Harry Potter share his first romantic kiss?”)

In the preview I saw, he bantered amiably with contestants like an old pro. “It was a blast,” recalls Roeper, who’d previously been under consideration for two other game shows. “I’ve always been interested in hosting the right kind of fun show that’s closer to a ‘Jeopardy’ or a ‘[Who Wants To Be a] Millionaire’ than some silliness. This would overlap a lot of things I already do: It’s pop culture, it’s television, and it’s movie-related.” Initial response to the Chicago-produced pilot from potential sponsors and a national cable channel has been quite favorable, according to his agent, Brian Musburger.

Holding down multiple jobs is nothing new for the south suburban Dolton native, who’s been an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times since 1987. A three-year contract renewal last fall paved the way for Roeper’s column to hit the 25th anniversary mark, which would be a noteworthy achievement for any newspaperman these days.

That deal came on the heels of his radio partnership with Roe Conn on news/talk WLS-AM (890), where they hold forth from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Michael Damsky, president and general manager of the Citadel Broadcasting station, calls Roeper’s hiring “the single most important programming change we have made in the past year,” and points to an 83 percent increase in year-to-year ratings since “Roe & Roeper” rejuvenated afternoon drive.

“Richard brings out the best in Roe, and vice versa,” adds Damsky. “When you hear them together, it is easy to understand why they’re the most listened-to talk show on Chicago radio.”

A new dimension to the show was added in November when NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 began airing a live video simulcast of “Roe & Roeper” on its Chicago Nonstop digital subchannel. With the duo outdrawing even their own station’s once-formidable Rush Limbaugh, it’s no wonder there’s talk of national syndication in the offing.

Beyond Chicago, Roeper is more widely known for his eight-year run on “Ebert & Roeper,” the nationally syndicated movie-review show he co-hosted with Roger Ebert after the death of Gene Siskel. His frequent appearances with Jay Leno and Howard Stern — as well as the eight books he’s written on everything from urban legends to his beloved White Sox — have helped make Roeper one of the media’s go-to guys on all matters pop culture.

Since he and Ebert parted with Walt Disney Co. in 2008 (leading to the demise of the show two years later), Roeper has forged a successful career as a solo critic, drawing several million page views a year to his reviews at and becoming a ubiquitous presence on Reelz Channel, the movie-centric cable and satellite network owned by Hubbard Media Group. In December he signed a two-year, six-figure deal greatly expanding his duties with Reelz.

Inside and out of the critics’ screening room, Roeper still keeps in touch with Ebert and his wife, Chaz, co-executive producers of “Ebert Presents at the Movies” (which debuts Jan. 21 on WTTW-Channel 11 and public television stations nationwide). He’s invited the co-hosts of the Eberts’ new show, Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, to appear as guests on “Roe & Roeper.” At the same time, Chaz says she and Roger “look forward to having Richard on [their] show at some point,” adding: “Roger and Richard are still friends. Some people who’ve written things about them on the Web don’t realize that.”

As great as the past year turned out to be for the busiest man in Chicago media, Roeper says he’s “looking forward to even bigger things in 2011 — with the exception of ‘Transformers 3.’ ”

Robert Feder

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