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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Robert Osborne Returns to TCM

Robert Osborne is the leading authority on all things Oscar. Besides his hosting duties for TCM, Osborne continues to provide updates every 5 years to his highly successful book, 80 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards. Keep your eyes open for the next update, 85 Years.

About three months ago TCM fans were given a shock when it was suddenly announced that the classic movie channel’s stalwart and beloved host, Robert Osborne was taking an extended break. The genial Osborne has been the network’s nightly host since its inception in 1994, so the abrupt news was unsettling to say the least. At the same time it was more than understandable. I mean everyone needs a vacation sometime. But in the meantime TCM fans have been anxiously awaiting the return of the man who provides context and commentary to their favorite classic films, and finally the wait is over!

Tonight at 5pm (PST) Osborne will be back on the air to once again provide inside information on the greatest films of yesteryear, and what a perfect night for his return. Starting at 5pm TCM will be showing the films of one of the most admired stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, star of the month, William Powell. Every Thursday night in December, Powell will grace television screens with his dapper and debonair ways. As a true icon of the greatest era of filmmaking, a batch of William Powell films is ideal for launching Osborne’s highly anticipated return to his irreplaceable position as the face of TCM.

Although I can’t wait for tonight, I must say that TCM did a great job of lining up an interesting menagerie of fill-ins while Osborne was gone. Most notable was Ben Mankiewicz. It was a treat to see the weekend host fulfill the nighttime duties so admirably. All dressed up with a suit and tie a la the maestro himself, Mankiewicz’ ease and comfort at the job left no doubt that he must certainly be the heir apparent when the day ultimately comes for Osborne to retire (I personally hope it’s not for a very long time). Of course, with his weekend experience, Mankiewicz had an advantage already having been well groomed for the job.

What is more impressive is just how well some of the celebrity substitutes fared. The film critics all did fairly well, which is to be expected as this is their ground, and most have had television experience before. But I was particularly impressed with a few of the actors who aren’t use to reading their lines from a teleprompter. Especially Robert Wagner and Rita Wilson. With his charm and suave attitude, Wagner easily slid in as the first guest host, performing virtually as a double for Osborne. Wilson was even more surprising as she seamlessly read from the teleprompter, making each phrase and fact sound refreshingly spontaneous - much like Osborne’s own style. With her Hollywood status and pleasing personae, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of Wilson on the classic film channel. Which doesn’t seem quite fair, since she’s already beautiful and married to Tom Hanks.

TCM may indeed have discovered some new talent for their future due to Osborne’s well deserved break, but I’m sure the network, as well as Osborne’s many fans are relieved and anxious to see the man back where he belongs. I know I am. And with the added bonus of William Powell films all night - it’s like Christmas already! Welcome back, Robert Osborne! We’ve missed you! Please don’t ever leave us again!

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