Bobby Rivers, Film Critic and TV Host, Dies at 70

Bobby Rivers, who was known for hosting Food Network’s “Top 5” and VH1’s “Watch Bobby Rivers” celebrity talk show, died Tuesday in Minneapolis at the age of 70.

WISN 12, the network Rivers joined as the city of Milwakee’s first Black film critic on television, confirmed the news. The TV host’s sister Betsy also confirmed his death via Facebook.

“Bobby passed away last night and is no longer in any pain,” she wrote Wednesday.

Selma Archerd

Upon graduation from Marquette University in the 1970s, Rivers began his career at Milwaukee radio station WQFM where he was hired as a morning newsman. After he grew in popularity as an on-air personality, Rivers was let go from the network in July 1978. Over 1000 listeners signed three separate petitions to the station to keep Rivers, who renegotiated his contract and stayed on for another year.

Rivers debuted on television via WISN-TV as Milwaukee’s first Black film critic on TV in 1979. He also contributed segments to the city’s “PM Magazine,” which was nationally syndicated. In 1984 he became a co-host and associate producer of a live weekday WISN show until its 1985 cancellation.

Rivers was well-known on social media, regularly interacting with fans of film and television. He was also a regular commenter for those who loved old movies, especially those shown by Turner Classic Movies.

“Bobby was a very funny, very knowledgeable journalist, and a tireless advocate for more diversity, particularly in the classic film world.” Stephen Whitty wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “(His piece on race and “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a keeper.) I miss him already.”

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Michael Musto, who was the subject of one of Rivers’ blog post pitches, posted a tribute to his fellow journalist. “Bobby Rivers was an openly gay trailblazer. He was funny, campy, knowledgeable and groundbreaking,” Musto wrote, according to Variety.

VH1 hired Rivers in 1987, giving him his own show “Watch Bobby Rivers” the following year. The show saw Rivers interview guests such as Mel Gibson, Meryl Streep and Paul McCartney. He hosted veejay segments as well with Rosie O’Donnell on the station until 1990.

In 1992, on WNBC TV’s “Weekend Today in New York” and WNYW-TV’s “Good Day New York,” Rivers entered lifestyle and entertainment reporting. He became entertainment editor on ABC News’ and Lifetime TV’s “Lifetime Live.” After the segment’s cancellation, Rivers began hosting Food Network’s “Top 5” in 2002. 

Acting appearances for Rivers included credits in “The Sopranos” and The Onion News Network’s video Podcast “In the Know.” He launched his blog Bobby Rivers TV, on which he wrote about film and television, in 2011. His last post landed Nov. 19, praising Colman Doming’s performance in “Rustin.”

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