To celebrate today’s wonderful milestone, here’s something I wrote back in 2006 honoring the best goddamn cable channel ever created.
I’ve long been a fan of Turner Classic Movies, or TCM, for short. If you look back on the maelstrom of cable activity in the early/mid ’90s, it was amazing. You had new cable channels popping up all over the place. Cartoon Network, E!, Game Show Network, The Sci-Fi Channel, and Turner Classic Movies were just a few new faces on the cable landscape. Each sought to carve out a special niche in the marketplace, one that until then had largely gone unfufilled.
Now it’s almost two decades later and what has happened? Cartoon Network has turned into a repetitive noise-machine of regurgitated “original series” while forsaking the classic cartoons they originally aired (so much so they had to create a sister channel, Boomerang, just to air said cartoons, and now even Boomerang has fallen prey to the phenomenon known as “channel drift”), E! resembles The Paparazzi Channel, Game Show Network is now called gsn – the network for games and throws in reality series and poker, poker, poker.
But in the loud den of the money-hungry claptrap that the race for viewers causes, one channel has stood the test of time by staying true. One channel has remained committed and devoted to its founding principles: classic movies 24/7. They’ve proven that they can make money and yes, Bonnie Hammer at SCI FI *still* retain a hefty viewership. That channel is, of course, Turner Classic Movies.
I will turn 25 later this year and Turner Classic Movies is truly like a breath of fresh air. I’ve ignored this channel for far too long. On May 22nd, they’ll be airing the Orson Welles-made documentary F for Fake! That’s never shown on television! Tonight theme (as each night has one) is films by director Norman Z. McLeod. They’ll be playing The Marx Brothers classic Horse Feathers plus the film Topper, to name a few.
It’d be one thing if they only ran movies. But Turner Classic Movies goes the extra mile by really conveying just how much they love these great films. Each film is more often than not introed and outroed by the inimitable Robert Osborne, the vast film encyclopedia. He is amazing and provides a lush detailing of each and every facet that you might want to know about the film you’re going to watch or the one you just did. Then there’s the channel’s movie promos, TCM‘s “One Reel Wonders” in which they’ll air a short (in between movies) from yesteryear, one that no doubt played before a movie in one of the country’s grand movie houses, “Cartoon Alley”, where classic cartoons are screened, and sometimes we’ll get treated to Robert Osborne interviewing a classic film star. In September, select episodes of The Dick Cavett Show will air, each featuring interviews with legends of film including Groucho Marx and Alfred Hitchock, to name a few. Some bemoan the fact that they’ll be airing this show; I welcome it as an added bonus to hear a candid and in-depth interview with some of Hollywood’s best and brightest who are no longer with us.
And as for a web presence…whoa nelly! TCM‘s website, at TurnerClassicMovies.com , is really something. There’s games, schedule info, a message board, and a newly unveiled movie database, which is a technological marvel in and of itself. Their web team really outdid themselves.
As long as Time Warner keeps their mission statement in mind, this amazing, amazing, treasure of a cable channel, with its great films that harken back to the silver’s screen’s best and brightest of yesteryear and wonderful on-air style, sophistication, and presentation, will truly remain the one and ONLY crown jewel on cable television – PERIOD.