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What would you tell a new TCM viewer about the channel and what it offers..?


TopBilled
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I still remember the first night I watched TCM. It was an evening in July 2008. I remember this is because I was channel surfing and saw Sally Field introducing a film with Robert Osborne. I watched Sally each week in Brothers & Sisters so I was interested in what she was doing on this other channel. Turns out she was guest programmer (they invited her back later as a co-host of Essentials with Robert). She introduced THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, which I'd seen before...but I really liked what she and Robert said about the film.

I started coming back to TCM more often for other films and commentary. I did not join the message board community until two or three years later.

***

Anyway when I started watching TCM, I really didn't know why they programmed what they programmed. I assumed that if I saw Movie X on TCM, I'd have a chance to see it again a short time later like the old AMC used to do. Except of course, I gradually realized that unless something is in the Turner library, it may not be repeated for awhile.

So here are some things I would tell a viewer just tuning into TCM. I am writing these comments as objectively as possible!

Feel free to chime in and add your two cents!

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1. Some Star of the Month selections are repeated.

2. TCM airs 24-7...365/366 days a year. There's always a variety of themes.

3. TCM programmers seem to give preference to musicals and noir. Westerns and science fiction are underplayed.

4. TCM is not the only place for classic film but it's a very worthwhile source of classic film.

5. TCM airs promos between films. TCM does not air commercials during films.

6. TCM has never just defined classic film as studio era output (1925-1968). It's always shown films made after the production code was abolished (post '68).

7. TCM mostly airs films from MGM, WB, RKO and UA. Films from Paramount, Universal and Republic air much less often. TCM has had long-term leasing deals in the past with Sony (for Columbia classics) and 20th Century Fox (now owned by Disney). So many films from these studios have been broadcast.

8. TCM now likes to do tie-ins to cultural events and progressive news stories.

9. The hosts get a bit socio-political in some of their commentaries (it wasn't always this way).

10. TCM has upgraded its website several times and it has always been moderated fairly.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

1. Some Star of the Month selections are repeated.

2. TCM airs 24-7...365/366 days a year. There's always a variety of themes.

3. TCM programmers seem to give preference to musicals and noir. Westerns and science fiction are underplayed.

4. TCM is not the only place for classic film but it's a very worthwhile source of classic film.

5. TCM airs promos between films. TCM does not air commercials during films.

6. TCM has never just defined classic film as studio era output (1925-1968). It's always shown films made after the production code was abolished (post '68).

7. TCM mostly airs films from MGM, WB, RKO and UA. Films from Paramount, Universal and Republic air much less often. TCM has had long-term leasing deals in the past with Sony (for Columbia classics) and 20th Century Fox (now owned by Disney). So many films from these studios have been broadcast.

8. TCM now likes to do tie-ins to cultural events and progressive news stories.

9. The hosts get a bit socio-political in some of their commentaries (it wasn't always this way).

10. TCM has upgraded its website several times and it has always been moderated fairly.

This is  a nice list but I would re-word  #6:   to me it is irrelevant how one defines "classic".   What is relevant to a potential new viewer is the movies that will be shown;  So I would just say over 80% of the films shown will be American Studio-Era talking films (1929 - 1968),   with the remainder a mix of post Studio-Era films,  silent and foreign films.

 

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Okay, HERE'S what I'd tell 'em and BEFORE they'd even ask the question: "What date in December is TCM going the show It's a Wonderful Life?", I'd tell 'em TCM isn't ever going to show It's a Wonderful Life and because the NBC Television Network has owned the sole rights to show that flick on TV(and interrupted every ten freakin' minutes or so with some freakin' commercial) for about thirty years now.

Ya see, THIS way I'd be PROACTIVE here!

And because YOU KNOW we're gonna get THAT damn question asked on these boards AT LEAST five or six times by various newbies to this channel and starting just about when Thanksgiving rolls around again this year!

(...yep, that's what I'D tell a newbie to this channel, alright!)

LOL

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4 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Screen Shot 2021-08-25 at 2.58.46 PM

I still remember the first night I watched TCM. It was an evening in July 2008. I remember this is because I was channel surfing and saw Sally Field introducing a film with Robert Osborne. I watched Sally each week in Brothers & Sisters so I was interested in what she was doing on this other channel. Turns out she was guest programmer (they invited her back later as a co-host of Essentials with Robert). She introduced THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, which I'd seen before...but I really liked what she and Robert said about the film.

I started coming back to TCM more often for other films and commentary. I did not join the message board community until two or three years later.

***

Anyway when I started watching TCM, I really didn't know why they programmed what they programmed. I assumed that if I saw Movie X on TCM, I'd have a chance to see it again a short time later like the old AMC used to do. Except of course, I gradually realized that unless something is in the Turner library, it may not be repeated for awhile.

So here are some things I would tell a viewer just tuning into TCM. I am writing these comments as objectively as possible!

Feel free to chime in and add your two cents!

You pretty much hit everything in this post and your list post.  I've been fortunate enough to have TCM from the very beginning back in April 1994, and I watched it from the beginning. The movie they seemed to overplay that first couple of years? Believe it or not it was the 1929 film "Sally" if I remember correctly. AMC was left with the Paramount, Universal, and Republic pictures you mention as being missing on TCM. That is probably because of the unrestored nature of those films more than anything that you never see them on TCM. 

This is not a reminiscing thread, but one thing I really miss that TCM had for a few years that got killed by the Great Recession - The Young Composers' Competition. There would be a contest for scoring a silent film with the winner having the film broadcast along with their score.  MGM has most of their film library intact, including their silents. It would be nice if those could get scored and taken out of mothballs. 

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9 minutes ago, LsDoorMat said:

You pretty much hit everything in this post and your list post.  I've been fortunate enough to have TCM from the very beginning back in April 1994, and I watched it from the beginning. The movie they seemed to overplay that first couple of years? Believe it or not it was the 1929 film "Sally" if I remember correctly. AMC was left with the Paramount, Universal, and Republic pictures you mention as being missing on TCM. That is probably because of the unrestored nature of those films more than anything that you never see them on TCM. 

This is not a reminiscing thread, but one thing I really miss that TCM had for a few years that got killed by the Great Recession - The Young Composers' Competition. There would be a contest for scoring a silent film with the winner having the film broadcast along with their score.  MGM has most of their film library intact, including their silents. It would be nice if those could get scored and taken out of mothballs. 

Do you remember which films received new scores through the composers' competition? Sounds like an interesting way for TCM to connect with viewers who have musical talent.

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2 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Do you remember which films received new scores through the composers' competition? Sounds like an interesting way to connect with viewers who have musical talent.

One, I believe, was "Laugh Clown Laugh". That ended up in the silent Lon Chaney DVD set that was put out about fifteen years ago.  

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1 minute ago, LsDoorMat said:

One, I believe, was "Laugh Clown Laugh". That ended up in the silent Lon Chaney DVD set that was put out about fifteen years ago.  

Thanks.

I suppose you remember when Ben first debuted on the channel. When I started watching in 2008, he was basically just a weekend host. 

Re: the Universal, Paramount and Republic films...I agree that a lot of the Universal pictures from the 1920s to 1940s have not been restored. But much of Paramount's catalogue from 1950 onward is restored.

Paramount now controls the Republic Pictures library (nearly 1000 films including serials, A films and B films)...and a few years back, maybe five or six years now, Paramount teamed up with the BFI National Archive to digitally restore about 700 of those films (the British Film Institute had better nitrate prints than the Hollywood copyright holders did). 

So a lot of the Paramount and Republic library is now available. But I think it's budget that keeps TCM from leasing them. Though the programmers will get the Billy Wilder titles, the Preston Sturges titles and on occasion some John Wayne/John Ford stuff made at Republic.

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8 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Thanks.

I suppose you remember when Ben first debuted on the channel. When I started watching in 2008, he was basically just a weekend host. 

Re: the Universal, Paramount and Republic films...I agree that a lot of the Universal pictures from the 1920s to 1940s have not been restored. But much of Paramount's catalogue from 1950 onward is restored.

Paramount now controls the Republic Pictures library (nearly 1000 films including serials, A films and B films)...and a few years back, maybe five or six years now, Paramount teamed up with the BFI National Archive to digitally restore about 700 of those films (the British Film Institute had better nitrate prints than the Hollywood copyright holders did). 

So a lot of the Paramount and Republic library is now available. But I think it's budget that keeps TCM from leasing them. Though the programmers will get the Billy Wilder titles, the Preston Sturges titles and on occasion some John Wayne/John Ford stuff made at Republic.

Yes,  Paramount has restored some but I can't seem to find them anywhere except on Amazon Prime. For example 1962's "All The Way Home". I think that the only way you can see that is Amazon Prime, so Paramount has restored it.  I can find some random Paramounts and  Universals on youtube. They pop up from time to time such as "The Saxon Charm", which was a film Robert Montgomery made in the late 40s for Universal. Universal has taken lots of their library and the Paramounts that they own (1929-1949) and licensed them to Kino to put out on Blu. 

As for Ben - yes I remember when he showed up. I THINK he was always in that game room setting with the jeans until Robert began showing signs of real chronic illness. Then TCM began to transition him over to a more mature dignified look preparing for the day when Robert had to leave. That day came sooner than I expected. 

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5 minutes ago, LsDoorMat said:

Yes,  Paramount has restored some but I can't seem to find them anywhere except on Amazon Prime. For example 1962's "All The Way Home". I think that the only way you can see that is Amazon Prime, so Paramount has restored it.  I can find some random Paramounts and  Universals on youtube. They pop up from time to time such as "The Saxon Charm", which was a film Robert Montgomery made in the late 40s for Universal. Universal has taken lots of their library and the Paramounts that they own (1929-1949) and licensed them to Kino to put out on Blu. 

I think a lot of the ones that pop up on YouTube, like THE SAXON CHARM (1948), are from VHS copies that people recorded off the old AMC. And in most cases, the picture and audio quality is rather poor.

The Paramount films on Prime are very good quality restorations.

I always found it a bit interesting that TCM never leased any of the Cecil B. DeMille pictures to show on the Essentials. Surely some of DeMille's work at Paramount is essential viewing. He was very influential. Every major star in Hollywood wanted to work with him and it was an accomplishment to be cast in a DeMille production. But viewers new to TCM would never know DeMille existed because TCM does not air his stuff.

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16 minutes ago, LsDoorMat said:

As for Ben - yes I remember when he showed up. I THINK he was always in that game room setting with the jeans until Robert began showing signs of real chronic illness. Then TCM began to transition him over to a more mature dignified look preparing for the day when Robert had to leave. That day came sooner than I expected. 

I loved that set! Here's a photo.

I remember the 101 sign. But I don't remember the dog...Ben dressed a lot more casually as weekend host.

Screen Shot 2021-08-25 at 4.18.36 PM

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1 minute ago, TopBilled said:

I think a lot of the ones that pop up on YouTube, like THE SAXON CHARM (1948), are from VHS copies that people recorded off the old AMC. And in most cases, the picture and audio quality is rather poor.

The Paramount films on Prime are very good quality restorations.

I always found it a bit interesting that TCM never leased any of the Cecil B. DeMille pictures to show on the Essentials. Surely some of DeMille's work at Paramount is essential viewing. He was very influential. Every major star in Hollywood wanted to work with him and it was an accomplishment to be cast in a DeMille production. But viewers new to TCM would never know DeMille existed because TCM does not air his stuff.

Absolutely is the stuff on youtube often VHS quality from the old AMC days or even the earliest TCM days. One time somebody had a copy of "Divorce Among Friends"  (1930) that aired only once on TCM up on youtube. It had the TCM watermark. But what an absolutely awful copy. If it wasn't for the fact that I was determined to see this film all the way through I would not have sat through the blurry mess. There was a guy who had a youtube channel a few months back that had some silent films from MGM I had never heard of before. I watched all of the silent rarities that I had time to watch because I knew Warner Brothers would come along and have his  stuff taken down. Sure enough, four weeks later down it came. 

What you say about DeMille is right though.  Paramount must want a high rental price for his work. He did make three films for MGM in the early sound era, but they don't get much air on TCM  because two of them are very weird and the third is a remake. I think that MGM fired him and then he went back to Paramount and stayed there for the rest of his career. 

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Just now, TopBilled said:

I loved that set! Here's a photo.

I remember the 101 sign. But I don't remember the dog...he dressed a lot more casually as weekend host.

Screen Shot 2021-08-25 at 4.18.36 PM

I remember the sign but I don't remember the dog either. Maybe this is his dog? Don't know.  Yes they were trying to have a clear contrast between Ben and Robert for the first few years Ben was on the air. 

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1 minute ago, LsDoorMat said:

I remember the sign but I don't remember the dog either. Maybe this is his dog? Don't know.  Yes they were trying to have a clear contrast between Ben and Robert for the first few years Ben was on the air. 

I would say that Ben was brought in to appeal to the younger demographics. So it made sense he was allowed to be more casual on air. And that his set was a bit trendier in appearance.

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Just now, TopBilled said:

I would say that Ben was brought in to appeal to the younger demographics. So it made sense he was allowed to be more casual on air. And that his set was a bit trendier in appearance.

It wasn't that Ben was "allowed to" but instead that he was asked to,  according to the L.A. Times interview he gave a few years back.

 

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1 minute ago, TopBilled said:

I would say that Ben was brought in to appeal to the younger demographics. So it made sense he was allowed to be more casual on air. And that his set was a bit trendier in appearance.

That was also why he wasn't trusted at first. In 2001, when it looked like TCM had pretty much KO'd AMC, they began to make changes to modernize. Lots of people, including myself, were suspicious that the PTB intended to fire Robert and replace him with Ben, which would have been a disaster. But they did other things like get rid of the very stylish "Look for the Silver Lining" intro and replace it with the morning train with a theme song that sounds like the old 80s era Roseanne show. That didn't last long and it was replaced with the pop up book intro which has been around for over ten years now. 

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16 minutes ago, LsDoorMat said:

That was also why he wasn't trusted at first. In 2001, when it looked like TCM had pretty much KO'd AMC, they began to make changes to modernize. Lots of people, including myself, were suspicious that the PTB intended to fire Robert and replace him with Ben, which would have been a disaster. But they did other things like get rid of the very stylish "Look for the Silver Lining" intro and replace it with the morning train with a theme song that sounds like the old 80s era Roseanne show. That didn't last long and it was replaced with the pop up book intro which has been around for over ten years now. 

So was Robert the only host from 1994 to 2001? Or were there other weekend hosts before Ben?

I find some of the history of the channel worth discussing...!

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Robert was a force of nature for about the first ten years TCM was on the air. And I believe the only regular host that they had. I think they started the essentials in 2001??? And he did not host that until the directors who hosted it did a few seasons and left.  So he was hosting  guest programmers AND doing the Private Screening series that took quite a bit of prep starting in 1995. He loved hosting guest programmers. He did a month of them in November 2007.  He did say he was getting tired and Ben was brought in to do the weekend days to lighten the load for him. But by that time he was 71 so he had every right to be tired.  He just loved what he did.  But you know how most of the hosts just do the first three or so films in primetime and then switch to no host? In earlier days Robert would be there all night. I have a set of Lone Wolf DVDs I recorded almost 20 years ago  from TCM and the DVDs still work. I had forgotten it, but Robert was there introducing these films ALL NIGHT.  I realize they are not shooting this live, and that he wasn't there at 4AM, but still it was lots of extra work. 

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2 minutes ago, LsDoorMat said:

Robert was a force of nature for about the first ten years TCM was on the air. And I believe the only regular host that they had. I think they started the essentials in 2001??? And he did not host that until the directors who hosted it did a few seasons and left.  So he was hosting  guest programmers AND doing the Private Screening series that took quite a bit of prep starting in 1995. He loved hosting guest programmers. He did a month of them in November 2007.  He did say he was getting tired and Ben was brought in to do the weekend days to lighten the load for him. But by that time he was 71 so he had every right to be tired.  He just loved what he did.  But you know how most of the hosts just do the first three or so films in primetime and then switch to no host? In earlier days Robert would be there all night. I have a set of Lone Wolf DVDs I recorded almost 20 years ago  from TCM and the DVDs still work. I had forgotten it, but Robert was there introducing these films ALL NIGHT.  I realize they are not shooting this live, and that he wasn't there at 4AM, but still it was lots of extra work. 

So you can see how much younger he looked when those earlier wraparounds were filmed.

I think I had read somewhere that Robert did not host Essentials in the beginning. Wasn't it Scorsese or Bogdanovich? And at one point film scholar Molly Haskell hosted, though maybe she was a co-host with Robert? 

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2 hours ago, Dargo said:

Okay, HERE'S what I'd tell 'em and BEFORE they'd even ask the question: "What date in December is TCM going the show It's a Wonderful Life?", I'd tell 'em TCM isn't ever going to show It's a Wonderful Life and because the NBC Television Network has owned the sole rights to show that flick on TV(and interrupted every ten freakin' minutes or so with some freakin' commercial) for about thirty years now.

Ya see, THIS way I'd be PROACTIVE here!

And because YOU KNOW we're gonna get THAT damn question asked on these boards AT LEAST five or six times by various newbies to this channel and starting just about when Thanksgiving rolls around again this year!

(...yep, that's what I'D tell a newbie to this channel, alright!)

LOL

Does NBC have the rights to it all year, or just in December?

I wouldn't be averse to it airing on TCM in February or March as part of 31 Days of Oscar. It had five Oscar nominations, winning one Oscar in a technical category.

Screen shot 2016-08-23 at 10.18.17 AM.png

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1 minute ago, TopBilled said:

So you can see how much younger he looked when those earlier wraparounds were filmed.

I think I had read somewhere that Robert did not host Essentials in the beginning. Wasn't it Scorsese or Bogdanovich? And at one point film scholar Molly Haskell hosted, though maybe she was a co-host with Robert? 

I watched it, but I couldn't remember EXACTLY who hosted in what order. This is off of Wikipedia:

So Robert co-hosted from 2006 to 2015 after the directors left.  Molly and Carrie seemed rather angry hosts. Rose seemed ill prepared. Robert and Alec Baldwin had great and unexpected chemistry. And Drew - she was pretty good but had some weird observations. I tried to get into Ava's films, but they seemed so "film school". Not very accessible. Claudine was about the only one she picked that I found accessible and charming.  But then you remember all of this stuff. The directors who initially hosted were good  because they knew what to point out. 

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3 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Does NBC have the rights to it all year, or just in December?

I wouldn't be averse to it airing on TCM in February or March as part of 31 Days of Oscar. It had five Oscar nominations, winning one Oscar in a technical category.

Screen shot 2016-08-23 at 10.18.17 AM.png

From my understanding NBC/Universal has absolute and total control of that film and will never let go.  As late as the late 1980s it was a public domain Christmas staple on every channel. I had a boyfriend at the time whose mission was to watch It's A Wonderful Life as many times as possible every Christmas season to the neglect of everything else - his work, his housekeeping, and me. 

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22 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Does NBC have the rights to it all year, or just in December?

I wouldn't be averse to it airing on TCM in February or March as part of 31 Days of Oscar. It had five Oscar nominations, winning one Oscar in a technical category.

Screen shot 2016-08-23 at 10.18.17 AM.png

As far as I know, NBCUniversal owns the broadcast rights to it 365 days of the year, TB.

And, only allows the USA cable network (which NBCUniversal also owns) to also show it.

(...with, once again, all those damn commercials)

 

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