Gene Shalit Retires

Critic Gene Shalit, a long-time fixture on the "Today" show, stepped down this week as their movie critic. The show held a retrospective of his career this morning.

Shalit's retirement marks the departure of yet another big-time movie critic, which has been an alarming trend in the media over the past several years.

When newspapers contracted, many critics were among the first to be axed. "At The Movies," the long-time syndicated show first started by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, was canceled earlier this year (though Ebert is trying to revive the brand).

These days, many moviegoers get their critiques online from websites like Rotten Tomatoes of AintItCoolNews. Some of the criticisms of movies are done by the people who run the site, and they also have a section where everyday readers can register their feelings about a movie.

Instead of seeing "Two Thumbs Up!" to advertise a movie, we're now seeing "it scored an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes!"

It's kind of a shame, because many times you'll see a criticism from a movie fan that says "This movies blows!" without telling you why. Get enough of these blanket empty statements, and you can kill a movie before it gets the chance to get any momentum. On the flip side, good word-of-mouth has often helped independent movies like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Juno" into huge paydays.

I guess I miss the authority the critic's presence brings, even though I'll end up disagreeing with them half the time. But even the famed critics like the Pauline Kaels of the world were never right 100 percent of the time.

Still, the new system really just invites studios to artifically change the polling of a movie if it can get enough people to weigh in positively on its film and negatively on the other studios' movies.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.) is back for a new season, picking up where the last one left off. Michael is shot and causes a wreck to escape from his captor. Meanwhile, a case from his past comes back to haunt him. And, for those wondering, yes, Jesse is back.

Last week's "Private Practice" (ABC, 10 p.m.) rape-centered episode drew a lot of attention, and the storyline continues this week after a new "Grey's Anatomy" at 9 p.m.

Nikita and Michael come to a truce this week to hunt down a terrorist on "Nikita," (CW, 9 p.m.), following a new "Vampire Diaries."

Wil Wheaton makes another guest appearance on "Big Bang Theory" (CBS, 8 p.m.) as Sheldon's archenemy, followed by "(Bleep)," "CSI" and "The Mentalist."

"Fringe" (Fox, 9 p.m.) is back on our side of the wormhole when people start experiencing memory loss. It follows "Bones."

NBC's sitcom lineup is new, followed by "The Apprentice" at 10 p.m.