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August 28, 2015

Five reasons to love Turner Classic Movies

by Allison Waldman, posted May 18th 2008 5:02PM
TCMAs much a I love TV -- and I do -- I'm also a real movie fan. I used to have a button that read "Movie Buff," and I actually wore it! So, it's without a bit of irony that I declare here and now that I love Turner Classic Movies. TCM is the definitive film fan destination on the entire cable/satellite/broadcast dial. Here's five reasons to back up my claim -- see if you don't agree.

1) Choice - Name another channel that you can watch from daybreak till midnight and not have to reach for the remote. TCM has thousands of movies, and as many as I've seen since I started really watching, they broadcast films that are new to me (and believe me, I've logged hudreds of hours watching films). The Turner library is stuffed with classics, A-movies, B's, two-reelers, shorts, silents ... MGMs, Warners, RKO's, and more -- they cover the spectrum. Ted Turner knew what he was doing when he created the channel in 1994. TCM promised to be "uninterrupted, uncolorized and commercial-free!" In 14 years they've stuck by the creed.

Gallery: I Love TCM

Judy Garland & Dirk BogardeBarbara StanwyckSpencer TracyCourtship of Eddie's FatherBen MankiewiczCharlie ChanCharlton HestonEaster ParadeRose McGowanRobert OsborneSeven BridesNow Playing magazinePeter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart

One night you can see Buster Keaton in The General (the greatest prop comedy of all time), the next Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows, and wake up to Charlie Chan at the Circus. Oh, yes, they'll show the Charlie Chan movies -- the same ones that Fox Movie Channel wouldn't run because Asian groups complained that they were politically incorrect! In June, they're showing Race & Hollywood, Asian Images on Film -- and that includes Charlie Chan. Instead of ducking the issue by not showing the films, they're showing them and discussing the issues that offend Asians.

TCM has also delved into controversy by showing pre-Production Code movies, like Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face, about a woman who sleeps her way from bank teller to the executive suite. They did a month on Gay Pride films, including Peter Lorre's very fey Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon. TCM doesn't pander; they show the movies as made, politically correct or not.

I'll never forget the day I got TCM. It was January 1, 2002. My cable system added it to the schedule -- without telling subscribers of course, so I just stumbled upon it. I was mesmerized. The first film was Bob Hope and Lana Turner in Bachelor in Paradise, and yes, I'd never seen it. It's still like that; on any given day, Turner Classic is giving me more choices than any other movie channel.

2) Read all about it
- If you want to know what's playing on TCM, you can go to their web site (which is really nice an includes plenty of video clips and bells and whistles), but for me, I love their monthly magazine Now Playing. It's a bargain at $12.95 a year for 12 issues, and you get more than just the schedule. There are short features, highlights, synopses of every film, a crossword puzzle (that's tougher than the TV Guide's), great (really great) photographs and it's all glossy and well-made. This may seem extraneous in this era of digital information, but as a movie fan, I want to know what's coming up and set my DVR accordingly. I can't say the same about Fox Movie Channel, for instance; they don't publish a magazine guide.

3) Robert Osborne
- He's the face of TCM, and he's a legit movie expert and Hollywood voice. He's been a columnist for the Hollywood Reporter since 1982 and a film reviewer, too. He gives TCM credibility and class. He's no Ryan Seacrest. He was chosen for his expertise and stature, not his handsome face and bright white smile (let alone minty breath!) The bottom line is this, when Osborne introduces a film and tells an anecdote about the picture, you can be sure that he's not reading from someone else's notes. He's written the words and done the research. He's an authority that can be respected and trusted.

I'm not as thrilled with Ben Mankiewicz, though. He's the daytime host and just a tad too snarky for my taste.

4) Uncut and commercial free - Like I said above, it's part of the TCM motto. All Turner Classic Movies are uncut and shown commercial free. They are also unaltered; that means you'll never see a pan-and-scan version of a movie, you'll never see a version that's been trimmed for time (yes, drop that musical number so the film can fit into a two-hour time period), and you will never see a colorized version of a black & white film on TCM. If a film was shot in widescreen, it's broadcast in a letter box so you will see the entire frame. So when you're watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, you're going to see all six brothers dancing (Howard Keel was a singer, not a dancer). Letter boxing makes a big difference.

And, oh, how great it is not to see commercials clogging the channel, or product integration? Not even a bug on the screen to constantly remind us that we're watching TCM. Turner Classic Movies stands out, remaining true to their original intent. PBS can't say the same when they show a movie, and Fox Movie Channel promotes Fox product with commercials. For pure movies, purely projected, TCM is the place for film buffs.

5) All the extras - If movies were all TCM delivered, that would be great. But it's not. They package films with wrap-arounds like The Essentials -- which currently includes Rose McGowan (Charmed), who knows what she's talking about with these movies -- and TCM guest programmers. In July, they're adding former New York Times' film critic Elvis Mitchell in an original series in which he interviews celebrity guests about classic films that have influenced them. I never cared for Elvis's reviews, but I'm curious to see his show. Recently, Gene Wilder was featured in a one on one with Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) called Role Model.

They've shown rare documentaries about movie-making, the industry, biographical features on great stars, and lately, rarities from other sources, like the Frank Sinatra salute that Bob wrote about recently. Sinatra: A Man and His Music was wonderful and I'm looking forward to the other musical specials; thank you, TCM. I also caught a 1972 Judy Garland documentary -- Judy: Impressions of Garland -- that's a source of controversy among fans because of the people interviewed, like Dirk Bogarde (he co-starred with her in I Could Go On Singing) and director Charles Walters (Summer Stock, Easter Parade) speculate about Judy in ways that are not very complimentary.

Another extra that I love about TCM is that the channel is programmed properly. It's like the people who decide what to air when know what they're doing. They think like film fans. They take suggestions from viewers, including a Viewer's Choice segment. They plan a celebration of the Academy Awards the month that the Oscars take place. For Father's Day next month, they're showing a couple of movies about Dads: Father of the Bride (Spencer Tracy's version) and The Courtship of Eddie's Father (with Glenn Ford and little Ronnie Howard). And when Charlton Heston died recently, TCM put together a day of Heston films shortly thereafter.

TCM -- it stands for Turner Classic Movies. It could also stand for True Cinema Mecca, because that's what it is.

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I, too, love TCM.

May 19 2008 at 11:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I spent most of the spring and summer last year laid flat on my back recovering from an injury. By some miraculous coincidence, I also upgraded my cable to digital and got a DVR. Turner Classic Movies saved my sanity and re-ignited my love of classic Hollywood movies. I fell in love all over again with Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe and so many others. And now I've gone even deeper into the filmographies of my favorite people because TCM is serious about putting its fabulous library to work. I've even started a blog http://onesharpdame.blogspot.com so I can stop pestering my friends and pester the internet instead.

May 19 2008 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul McCall

AMC used to be good once upon a time, before the commercials. I live in fear that TCM will go the same route out of economic necessity.

May 19 2008 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You just gave five GREAT reasons why AMC cannot compare to TCM! Especially #4. They show movies the way they were intended to be seen, albeit minus the lavish theatrical setting. Hey, AMC, if the movies are classics then why are you editing them??

The first time I ever saw The Third Man was on TCM. That earns it a lifetime pass in my book.

May 19 2008 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Man, I can't stand Ben Mankiewicz either. He's got that "too cool for school" attitude which just doesn't make sense in the context. I don't need some legacy Hollywood guy to try and make these movies cool. They're cooler than he is from the get-go.

The best thing about having a DVR is TCM. As someone who has seen--literally--thousands of old movies, it used to be frustrating that the obscure and unfamiliar films were always shown in the wee hours. Now I just go through the on-screen guide every week and program my DVR to record those gems.

I also give them credit for the often beautiful and haunting little promotional pieces they do--whether it's their own "In memoriam" at the end of the year, or what they screen to publicize the various monthly themes. THey usually have great music, wonderful clips, and beautiful photographic effects. Very cool.

May 19 2008 at 7:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It really is fantastic. Thanks Ted!

May 19 2008 at 4:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brent McKee

It was a truly great day when the cable company in my part of Canada became the first in the country to offer TCM. I'd seen the network before of course but to have it as a regular option is an absolute joy. And for the reasons that you mentioned. It is a network for people who love movies programmed by people who love movies. And in a survey of cable subscribers across Canada, the three things they wanted most were (in no particular order) news, sports and movies.

And so what if TCM and Weblogs (and TV Squad) are owned by the same company. This is a cable network that deserves all the promotion they get. This is what cable TV should be.

May 19 2008 at 1:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agreed, TCM is a fabulous channel for a movie buff.

And I have to give special credit to that "Role Model" special with Alec Baldwin interviewing Gene Wilder. I just happened to catch that on the schedule by chance, and it was a wonderful interview.

They've also been showing the Harryhausen Sinbad movies recently, yet another reason to love the channel.

May 19 2008 at 1:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I so love props for TCM. It's one of my favorite things. It has exposed me to so many fantastic things.

And not so fantastic. I always thought that the really awful movies got buried, but anyone who has ever caught the terrible musical the Student Prince on TCM knows thats not so true. Yes, the 1950's made awful musicals and they're still around.

But beyond an occasional fascinating trainwreck, I've discovered so many gems. Like the original Bedazzled with Dudley Moore that no one ever talks about, but which is a brilliant piece of British humor. And the likes of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Vertigo. The original Producers. And Romance on the High Seas, which showed why Doris Day was such a star.

TCM made me fall in love with Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Rex Harrison when I was 22, and want to be Katherine Hepburn. It does an excellent job on maintaining film history and educating those who want to know all that came before the time of Star Wars. And they give time to modern classics too, which makes them stand out as non-period exclusive snobs. They have a Charlie Chaplin festival one day and a Godfather marathon the next. I love TCM.

May 19 2008 at 12:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Orangecrush's comment

i like seeing some of the cruddy old flicks from time to time, and am glad there's actually a place that shows not just the cream of the crop, but the whole gamut of film history. even in the bad movies there are occasionally fascinating performances from some of the great character actors who popped up in everything from war flicks and cheesy musicals to b westerns and noir. i also cop lines for song lyric inspiration from time to time and often the worse movies have the best (or at least funniest) lines.

May 19 2008 at 4:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They also are v. witty in their movie selections: on Mother's Day they showed 'Mildred Pierce' with practically the worst daughter ever thought up...a nice ironic choice for the holiday.

May 19 2008 at 12:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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