Pros: Amazing classic programming, all without commercials
Cons: They could show more foreign films...
I wanted to find something that I’m truly passionate about to review for my 100th review on Epinions. As movie watching is one of the great joys I have in life, I decided to review the place where I see most of the movies I watch. Whether it is screwball comedies, epic dramas or cheesy horror films, the first place I always go when I turn on my television is TCM.
Turner Classic Movies (TCM for short) is THE premier movie-showing channel on cable television. It is the only cable channel focused completely on showing classic films, uncut and uninterrupted by commercials. Most of the films are shown in the original aspect ratio if available, which is a big plus for me. There is nothing I hate more than watching a widescreen film being broadcast in full frame (try watching A Few Good Men on TBS the next time it is on for an example of how bad pan and scan can be).
TCM’s greatest asset is the extensive film library owned Turner Entertainment and Time Warner, which includes most of the catalog of films from MGM, RKO, Warner Bros. and more. TCM also licenses the film libraries of studios like Paramount, 20th Century Fox and more, giving them the best selection of films on television. One of my favorite film studios they license from is Janus Films, an international film studio specializing in foreign classic films. With places like Netflix unavailable until recently, my film options were limited to what was available at the local video stores, so TCM really was the first place to introduce me to great foreign films, many of which came from Janus.
One of my favorite things about TCM is its selection of trailers and mini-documentaries it shows to fill time between movie selections. The trailer as the original classic trailers for films that generally will be shown at some time in the next week, and the documentaries are usually 5-10 minutes about a particular actor or movie, many times narrated by another famous actor. I always enjoy recording a film and having the recording run over, as it usually provides something else great to watch before the next movie starts.
While TCM shows movies pretty much non-stop throughout the year, there are several different special segments of programming that take place each month (or year). Every Sunday night at midnight, TCM shows a classic silent film, followed by a classic foreign film. These are called “Silent Sunday Nights” and “TCM Imports” respectively, as they highlight genres of films that even TCM doesn’t focus on enough in my opinion. Every Saturday night at 8:00PM they show a film segment called “The Essentials”, hosted by Robert Osborne (prime-time host of TCM) and a guest host (ranging from Carrie Fisher to the most recent Alex Baldwin), which shows a film that they consider “essential” viewing. It was my brother’s harassment to watch each week’s Essential with him a few years ago that first got me into my obsession with classic cinema. There is also an “Essentials Jr.” movie each Sunday night for the younger audience, so there is something on TCM for everyone.
While there are special events that take place every month on TCM, there are a couple of major month-long events that taken place every year. Each February, TCM’s 31 Days of Oscars takes over, as TCM shows only films that were Academy Award winning or nominated for 31 straight days leading to the Academy Awards. While this is great, my favorite event is the Summer under the Stars event. Each August, TCM shows 31 days of movies starring 31 actors/actresses, with each selected star receiving 24 straight hours of having their films shown. It has introduced me to several lesser stars, and given me a greater knowledge of larger stars like Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, who have been frequently selected.
Overall, I could ditch my cable box altogether if it wasn’t for Turner Classic Movies, but TCM alone makes the monthly subscription cost worthwhile. Whether it is seeing each month’s Star of the Month, the monthly guest programmer’s 4 film selections, or any one of the hundreds of specials they do, TCM is the first and last channel I need each day.