In 1968, the fortunes of the ABC television network were seriously flagging. As the lowest rated of the three networks, its numbers seriously trailed those of rivals NBC and CBS in both its entertainment and news programming. In fact, the network’s ratings were so dismal that TV industry insiders often joked that, if the country wanted to bring the Vietnam War to a quick conclusion, it should be broadcast on ABC, because it was sure to be cancelled after 13 weeks.
It’s a rare occasion when someone comes along who ends up being a genuine game changer in his or her particular field of endeavor. But, when such individuals make their presence felt, they leave an indelible mark on their craft, changing it forever. In the field of film criticism, that distinction belongs to Roger Ebert (1942-2013), who almost single-handedly altered the way we look at movies and whose storied life is now the subject of the engaging new documentary, “Life Itself.”