In corporate America (and show-biz–which I guess belongs to the former and thus is the same thing) you can’t stuff the Genji back in the bottle. When a studio hints that a project might go into turnaround, that project is 99/44/100% dead. When the very whisper was made of TCM possibly being ‘scaled back’ (and then a huge amount of the workforce was gutted) the writing was on the wall; TCM, as we know it, will be gone soon. Perhaps it might survive in some limited streaming sort of way but who cares? The point of TCM wasn’t planning on what to watch; it was to add a warm and fuzzy wallpaper to your environment. And if something came on that was of interest there it was–no ordering, downloading, streaming etc. For me TCM was not ‘destination’ watching. It was a constant and therefore constantly reliable accompaniment to the days/evenings/dawns of life.

And thus we come to American Movie Classics and Bob Dorian. Well before the emergence of Robert Osborne and TCM, AMC played commercial-free old movies. The nominal hosts providing introductions and neatly packaged factoids were Bob Dorian and Nick Clooney. (It’s rather amusing how little difference there is between these two and Ben Mankiewicz and Eddie Muller. The main difference I see is in the hand gestures; Dorian keeps his hands folded while the TCM hosts appear to be rather strictly directed to keep them open and use them to gesticulate and emphasize whatever it is they’re saying.) AMC served much the same purpose as TCM but perhaps with a bit more necessity, since it wasn’t yet as easy in that pre-internet era to watch any movie you wanted at any moment of the day as it is now. The walls began to crumble with the introduction of limited advertising in the late 90s and by 2002 the whole thing collapsed. (Read it about it in this Wiki article if you dare). I remember my reaction upon hearing that AMC was going to be ‘re-booted’ to include commercials and original programming. I was absolutely convinced an uprising would occur that would prove to the powers in charge the vast disconnect between them and their audience. And of course I was incredibly wrong. AMC quietly vanished, fortunately leaving TCM in its wake. TCM too will vanish leaving aforementioned streaming options in its wake. There are things I’ve come to dislike about TCM but that’s for another time. I’m sorry to see it go just as I’d be sorry to see a local library or museum disappear; its availability and reliability are what distinguishes it from so many other things that surround us–or rather, don’t surround us but rely on us to click them into existence. Above is a typical Bob Dorian intro to ‘Imitation Of Life’ from sometime in the early 90s. Dorian died in 2019 and his obit makes for interesting reading.


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6 Responses

  1. TCM is one of the last reasons to have any kind of good old fashioned cable TV. I heard just precovid that TCM was in trouble, I will assume that COVID helped TCM but then recently I again heard from the same source that TCM was still in trouble or in more trouble.

    Yes, TCM became the new AMC. Is/was AMC one of the first of the new generation of specific specialized cable channels to go rogue from it’s original mission? As someone said, do you remember when the History Channel was actually about History or when MTV actually showed Music videos. OF course MADMEN made the new AMC, well a zombie, compared to it’s original concept but a successful zombie.

    I guess sports channels still manage to actually cater to one audience, The Golf Channel really shows Golf, don’t they?

  2. If I remember correctly, Robert Osborne was at AMC before he went to TCM — I will be very sad to see TCM go — and the irony is that the archives belong to the monolith once known as Warner Bros (thanks to the aggressive purchases if Ted Turner) — showing them or making them available as streaming should be relatively no cost to them beyond whatever medium they use to show them..

  3. I worked at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta in the early ’70s. Ted Turner loved old movies, not because he was a film fan, but because they were cheap! He had hired an openly gay man Chris from New York city, (it was bold to be openly out in those days), who had lived in the Village and passionately loved old films. He setup Chris in an unused utility closet with a projector and small desk to screen films. Ted would crack that he’d put Chris “back in the closet”, it was a different time…. Occasionally upon passing the closet I would not only hear the sound of a film playing, but could hear sobbing. The first time I opened the door and saw Chris crying, he stopped the projector and said, “You HAVE to see this!” and he showed me a tender scene from “The L-Shaped Room”. From then on he would stop by the art department often to talk films with me. He was the beginning of TCM, he had picked out all the films. Chris is long gone but his collection still remains.

    1. There was a small cadre of vault workers at a few key companies who were in love with films and were also foresighted enough at rescuing films which were then thought to be of little or no value — often dumpster diving and squirreling them away in their homes. I had the honor of attending a dinner party at the home of one of these self-appointed archivists for a screening of one of his prints — not only did he have several film prints he’d saved, but several soundtrack mixes. I am also acquainted with many of those who did the same for early television — but despite all their best efforts, it is astounding what ended up thrown into dumpsters and rivers and such.

    2. I love this–that there wa a ‘Chris’ out there who was inadvertently responsible for so much later viewing etc. and he may well have never foreseen the extent to which his fandom paid off.

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