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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Turner Classic Movies and Television

Turner Classic Movies is without a doubt the best friend classic cinema has on television. There are many channels for old movies, and it seems like a new network is popping up every day, but many mix in a fair amount of modern fare. Most even have commercials and sporadic programming. TCM, however, is dedicated to the classics in a way like no other network, offering diverse and innovative programming that meets the desires of the die-hard enthusiast while staying accessible to new audiences. They seek out the best prints, are often the first to premier restorations, offer the popular along with the rare and unusual, all while remaining commercial free.

The ongoing series, “The Essentials” is an example of the network’s exceptional programming. The weekly show that airs Saturdays (8:00P EST/5:00P PST) is designed to introduce highly regarded classics to the unacquainted (film geek or otherwise). Film authority Robert Osborne shares anecdotes and inside information with an annually changing co-host and fellow enthusiast who introduce the films deemed essential must-see classics. Currently, it is two-time Best Actress Oscar winner Sally Field who currently occupies the coveted co-host chair.

Field follows in the footsteps of some impressive predecessors, including Drew Barrymore, Alec Baldwin, Rose McGowan, Carrie Fisher, and film critic Molly Haskell. Before TCM host Osborne joined the program, the hosting duties were left to a series of well-known A-list directors including, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Pollack and Rob Reiner. Although it was fun to watch the notable directors give their takes on their favorite films, the chemistry Osborne shares with celebrated cinema fans is hard to beat. The interaction is usually as much fun to listen to, as the movie they introduce is fun to watch.

Besides chemistry with the venerable Osborne, it’s important the co-host provide commentary on the cultural relevance of a hand-picked film, describing what elements combine to make a timeless, must-see movie. In this regard there is no doubt that acclaimed actors have plenty of insight and perspective to provide given their careers in Hollywood. In fact, the more extensive the career, the better the interplay between the hosts and the better the viewing for the audience. Although I’m sure there’s a lot of research and writing provided to the hosts, it’s a lot more interesting when you can tell that someone is throwing in some personal knowledge. Alec Baldwin was unsurpassed when it came to understanding the all around ins and outs, from in front of the lens and behind the scenes than anyone. No wonder he occupied the co-host chair for three years.

The 15th season of “The Essentials” begins March 7, 2015 and includes the films Roman Holiday, Metropolis, The More the Merrier, The Prisoner of Zenda, and Now, Voyager. For a complete schedule of films use the image of Sally Field and Robert Osborne as a link to the TCM website where you’ll see original air dates as well as dates for repeat showings. If all you ever do is watch this show, you’ll come away with a good understanding of American cinema and it’s history.

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