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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

TCM's Essentials Jr. All Summer Long

TCM’s Essentials Jr. is back for summer with SNL alum, Bill Hader returning for another season of the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) summer show case of classics that kids can watch with their grandparents, parents and the rest of the extended family. It’s a terrific way to spend Sunday nights this summer.

It’s summer, so that means a lot of kids are home from school, and a lot of parents are looking for things for them to do. Ideally, they’d like to do these things together. Enter Turner Classic Movies (TCM) with a good suggestion: watch some great classic movies with SNL alum Bill Hader! The Actor and writer of Saturday Night Live fame returns this June for his third season as host of the TCM Essentials Jr. summer showcase. The 2013 edition of the Sunday night show, which features a new lineup of classic family films launched Sunday, June 2 with the 1955 comedy, The Court Jester. Along with the comedy stylings of Danny Kaye the popular summer program will feature an eclectic selection of films that are sure to appeal to a wide variety of tastes, young and old alike.

This is really a pretty cool idea, and if you’re a parent or teacher who doesn’t already know about it then you really should. TCM has a summer-long series that features classic films that are kid and family friendly. The whole season is designed to not only get youngsters interested in the classics but to bring families together for a weekly event that they can all enjoy. How cool is that? Well, maybe it doesn’t sound that cool to a 13-17 year-old, but after one evening watching what many consider to be the best of the best I bet even the hardest edged teen will be hooked. Present it any way you want, as history, as nostalgia or plain old pop-culture movie going – there’s a thousand ways to package it to get them in their seats, and once they’re there I guarantee they will be back.

As you may or may not know, TCM relies upon a few hosts to introduce the movies they play. For the past two years they have relied up actor and writer Bill Hader of Saturday Night Live to host the TCM Essentials Jr. showcase and he has returned for a third season. With cross-generational appeal, Hader is the perfect choice for just such a format. As his SNL track record proves, he’s hip and funny to a younger audience without alienating a more mature one. And his light and breezy introductions give just the right amount of info to whet the appetite without challenging the attention spans of the target audience. Of course, it helps when you’ve got a good film to show and this year’s selections certainly makes it easy to keep a viewer’s attention. The 2013 edition features a new lineup of classic family films launched Sunday, June 2. The popular showcase features an eclectic variety of films that are sure to appeal to young and old alike.

In this seventh season of the TCM Essentials Jr. showcase Hader will one at a time, week-by-week present 13 grand old films that are ideal for parents to introduce to kids. The complete schedule (at the bottom of this article) offers familiar favorites mixed in with films kids (and adults) might not otherwise see, offering viewers an opportunity to discover new genres and iconic directors their bound to admire for a lifetime. The June lineup includes a Father’s Day presentation of the wonderful coming of age story To Kill a Mockingbird starring Gregory Peck, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn on June 30. Both highly acclaimed dramas are notable for telling their tales from the perspective of a child as the main character; yet manage to appeal to viewers of all ages. Also showing in June is the fanciful Gene Kelly/Judy Garland musical, The Pirate (1948), which features a sensational dance sequence by the Nicholas Brothers (no kidding, they have moves that will blow everyone away!).

Come July, variety is the name of the game. With such films as the sci-fi thriller The Incredible Shrinking Man, the action packed western The Magnificent Seven, the French comedy Mon Oncle, and the Dickens drama Great Expectations no one will get bored. Each unique film is likely to spark conversations that will last until the next week’s screening. Whether it’s about scientific possibilities or the lasting impact of great literature, you’re likely to discover interests you never knew existed in your child, which in turn will allow them the opportunity to discover something new about you.

Then in August, the 2013 showcase will wrap up with three comedies and an ever-relevant drama. I had the pleasure of seeing Ruggles of Red Gap at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, and found it to be delightfully funny. The Great Race (with Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood) is one of those silly, high-speed comedies which you just can’t help laughing at, and Frank Capra's romantic comedy It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert is an Academy Award winning screw-ball comedy that represents the genre at its absolute best. And of course, ever since I saw it in film school I’ve loved The Grapes of Wrath. The John Ford drama stars a young Henry Fonda in a role that would make him the face of American idealism for decades to come.

Essentials Jr. airing Sunday's at 8:00PM (EST) and 5:00PM (PST). And whether you schedule your whole week around it or gather the brood at the last minute, be sure to take advantage of this wonderful programming. After all, what’s a summer vacation without a memorable movie going experience to go along with it? And here you have the opportunity to capture the thrill of that experience 13 times! Happy summer movie watching!

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