The End Of My Long Affair (With Turner Classic Movies)

When I moved to Philadelphia in 1974 I became a film buff of sorts. It all happened very naturally and wasn’t anything I thought about. There were fewer options for movie lovers back then in Philadelphia than there are today, but there were enough. In addition to first-run theaters, Philadelphia had various venues that specialized in lesser-known flicks — some were foreign, some not. I had never before seen many foreign or cult movies and found myself liking them. My cinematic diet, consisting of the mainstream, the obscure, the subtitled, has remained consistent ever since.

My wife Sandy, whom I met in 1990, is a big movie fan too. Each year she and I leave the house 40 or more times to take in movies. Chez us, together we catch an additional 25 or so flicks on the tube. We like doing things together. For a span of eight years in my married life though, I also viewed hundreds of films on my own. I watched them on the Turner Classic Movies cable channel. I became addicted to TCM, but I’m not anymore. Here’s the story:

In 2006 my thoughts and activities were less-focused than they should have been. My father had died the previous year and I think my restlessness was partly connected to his passing. He had lived with Sandy and me, and we spent a lot of time caring for him. With him gone I had trouble finding ways to fill up my days fully.

I began watching TCM movies on this TV in 2006. This is a recent photo of the TV.
I began watching TCM movies on this TV in 2006. This is a recent photo of the TV.

Sandy had been suggesting I might do well to add some prime time television viewing to my regimen as one way to get my mind off of things. But I couldn’t decide what to watch, didn’t think I’d  be happy devoting a bunch of hours to the small screen. Somehow though, I heard the call of TCM. Our meeting must have been preordained. And so a few months into 2006 I began descending the stairs on many evenings from our kitchen to finished basement, a place I hadn’t visited all that much since moving into our house the year before. In the basement’s den area sat an old bulky TV that had traveled from our previous home.

The Letter was the first movie I watched on TCM in 2006. I took this photo recently.
The Letter was the first movie I watched on TCM in 2006. This is a recent photo.

I began the affair gingerly. The first TCM movie I watched in 2006 was The Letter, a Bette Davis melodrama. It was pretty good. “OK, let’s try another,” I thought, and not too many days later Tender Mercies passed before my eyes. I had seen it when it came out in 1983 but didn’t recall it too clearly. I gave it two thumbs up in 2006.

Turner Classic Movies is quite the amazing broadcaster. Movies in their unedited versions 24 hours a day with no commercial interruptions. TCM’s core is English-speaking productions from the 1930s through 70s. Once in awhile the station throws in a foreign movie or a silent or a post-1970s film such as Tender Mercies. Despite the station’s name, however, hardly every TCM movie is a classic. There are plenty of clunkers. On many occasions I turned off a movie within its first 30 minutes and made the long climb upstairs.

And yet, duds or not, I became very comfortable sitting in a recliner in front of the basement TV. By 2006’s end I had watched 61 movies on TCM. The next year’s number was 103, and the year after that I reached the 87 mark,  my two highest totals. Since then the counts have descended, from 64 in 2009 to seven in 2014. I’ve managed merely one movie so far in 2015, The Great Santini, a good one that seemed a tad better to me when it made its initial rounds in 1983.

Why the dramatic falloff? Well, after cutting a slew of notches into my movie-watching belt I discovered that my TCM motor was running out of gas. Eventually, many of the movies I contemplated watching didn’t seem, upon investigation, good enough to spend time with. And the slim pickings of films from 1980 onward began to bother me a little.

But I tip my hat to Turner Classic Movies without hesitation. You see, to Sandy’s amazement somehow I’d made it into my late 50s and early 60s without having witnessed On The Waterfront, West Side Story, Singin’ In The Rain, From Here To Eternity and others that the general populace would deem to be true classic films. TCM rectified that situation. Contrarian that I sometimes am though, Singin’ was the only one of those that I felt was completely worthy of wearing a crown. And, besides Singin’, at least 15 more offerings that I first caught on TCM are now on my list of elite movies: In A Lonely Place, Odd Man Out, The Misfits, Darling, Sweet Smell Of Success, Hud . . .

Hey TCM. you’re a great station and I thank you for all the entertaining hours that you bestowed on me. Add some movies from the current century and maybe once again you and I will become pals.

(Photos by Sandra Cherrey Scheinin. If you click on a photo, a larger image will open)

(If you enjoyed this article, then please don’t be shy about sharing it)

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “The End Of My Long Affair (With Turner Classic Movies)

  1. Invisible Mikey October 30, 2015 / 1:36 pm

    Actually, TCM has been programming many more current films lately than they used to a decade ago. The way they give that experience critical value is by using guest programmers for one night a week over a month, and presenting themed series. This month they’ve been running films written and directed by women, most of which have been ’90s or newer. It’s been hosted by Ileana Douglas, with guests like Alison Anders.

    To give a bit more info on what their core library is, the channel was started from the MGM library bought by Ted Turner in 1986. That library included a number of subsets besides MGM/UA including Warner Bros/ First National films up to the ’60s, RKO under Hughes, and early indies like Orion, AIP and Hammer films.

    (I used to work as a sound restoration specialist, cleaning up and remixing old movies for re-release to TV, DVD and theaters. The studios were our client list, and many of the restorations I worked on were in preparation to air on TCM. I haven’t done that since 2005, but restorations I worked on back then are still “premiering” on this channel.)

    Liked by 3 people

    • yeahanotherblogger October 30, 2015 / 5:02 pm

      Thanks very much for all of this info. I’m impressed by the work you did in sound restoration. That must have been a satisfying job.
      By the way, I took a look at TCM’s October schedule. Like you say, they have been showing some newer movies. Still, as far as I can tell, 90% of their programming predates 1980. Regardless, TCM is an excellent station.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Invisible Mikey October 30, 2015 / 5:05 pm

        Thanks for your reply. I did enjoy that job, but I moved on to medical imaging which is more creative than you might imagine.

        Any channel that airs movies without commercials during them has my endless gratitude. AMC used to do that!

        I enjoyed reading your article.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Joyce October 30, 2015 / 7:29 pm

    Wow! You really are a movie buff!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. leggypeggy October 30, 2015 / 8:08 pm

    Like you, I used to watch a lot of Turner Classic Movies. For a couple of years, it was free-to-air locally. It’s only cable now and I’m not enough of a watcher to pay for extra channels I won’t watch. Luckily I own a DVD of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger October 30, 2015 / 10:02 pm

      Have you seen The Band Wagon? It’s another really good musical, maybe on a par with Singin’ In The Rain. Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse and Oscar Levant are some of its stars.

      Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy October 30, 2015 / 10:16 pm

        I haven’t seen that for ages, but I loved it too. Maybe time to buy a DVD. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • yeahanotherblogger October 30, 2015 / 10:53 pm

          I haven’t seen it in a long time either. I’ll have to keep an eye on TCM’s schedule because they show it now and then and I’d like to see it.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. keithosaunders November 3, 2015 / 11:05 pm

    I love all of those films you mentioned — it’s great that at least one network is running them unedited. I also enjoy the introductions to the films providing some insight. When a TCN film is a clunker I sometimes enjoy going on twitter and making fun of it using the hashtag, #tcmparty

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger November 4, 2015 / 7:52 am

      I agree with your assessment. TCM is excellent, and has a pretty huge fan base.

      Like

  5. greenpete58 January 26, 2017 / 12:10 pm

    Just saw this article of yours, Neil. Have to comment. I love TCM, but I agree, they don’t show many films from the last 40 years. And many of the older films are repeated ad infinitum. I do think the “mainstream” films from way back then are better than today. Lots of cornball plots and predictable feel-good endings, but the acting and directing are excellent. But every now and then I still catch a gem: The Heiress, Black Narcissus, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, and some of those smoky film noirs, like In a Lonely Place, are a lot of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 26, 2017 / 1:08 pm

      Hi Pete. You know, I haven’t watched a film on TCM in ages. I need to start looking at some now and then. It’s a great station.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s