Is TCM losing its way?
0 comment Friday, July 18, 2014 |
There is a discussion going on over at VFR about the Turner Classic Movies channel, or TCM.
The discussion began with Spencer Warren's piece about the Hollywood Ten, a group of people in the movie industry of the 1950s who were investigated for Communist connections.
Warren took exception to the leftist slant of the story as presented by TCM's Robert Osborne. Warren detected a bias, and another commenter at VFR, Mark E, wrote a long and impassioned defense of Osborne and TCM, extravagantly praising TCM for being
...THE bastion of conservative/traditionalist films, views, images, sense of life, historical perspective, film aesthetics and morality, etc., simply because of what it is in its very nature, and all the movies they show.
It is the only place in the contemporary media where the un-censored, un-PC, pre-Boomer past is presented with reverence as a good thing and not the family shame that is elsewhere the common dispiriting leftoid/"progressive" narrative about America.
They do not censor the past to edit out un-PC images of race relations, smoking, drinking, sexual attitudes, relations between men and women, etc.''
I tend to agree with Warren that Osborne displays a pronounced liberal bias, as does the station, despite Mark E.'s denial.
I've blogged about the decline of TCM before, here, and here.
I happen to be a fan of TCM, and a regular watcher -- if and when they show the old classics I prefer, which is becoming more and more infrequently these days. As I said in an earlier piece
Recently I've noticed that my favorite movie channel, Turner Classic Movies, has been gradually inserting more and more recent movies, at the expense of the old films. Yes, I know the official explanation: this month it's 31 Days of the Oscars or some such theme, which offers an excuse to show many films which are much more recent than what TCM has heretofore shown.
We old movie buffs have already witnessed the trashing of the old American Movie Classics channel, which used to show actual classic movies from the 'Golden Age' of Hollywood: you know, the age before the movies became obsessively focused on the seamy, ugly side of life, full of explicit and perverse sexuality and violence, not to mention gutter language and subject matter. And more than that, the movies in the PC era invariably shove political messages down our gullets as well, making them a must to avoid, for me. I watch movies to be entertained, diverted, uplifted, or inspired. If I want a sermon, I prefer to get it from a minister of the Word, not some Hollywood nihilist.
AMC in its heyday used to show the classics, and they showed them uninterrupted. Now, in addition to the change in the quality and vintage of the movies shown, the movies are also riddled with commercials.
So scratch AMC from the worth-watching column. So, remembering the sorry fate of AMC, it's not unreasonable to suspect that TCM may be slated for the same kind of transformation. After all, sex-n-violence is a sure-fire commercial formula, and the old movies are woefully lacking in those things, so it only makes good business sense to throw in some more recent movies with the requisite amounts of 'adult' content.
I don't know that there is a plan to gradually decrease the proportion of old movies to newer ones on TCM; it would seem so. I have noticed that the old 30s movies, to which I am partial, are often shown in weird time slots only, like 3 AM local time, while the newer movies get shown in the primetime slots, such as 8 PM. It's clear the newer movies are being given the best slots.''
And since I wrote that piece, the newer movies (to me, 'newer' means anything from the post-PC era, from the late 60s onward) are becoming more and more dominant in TCM's programming; I notice as before that the old movies are relegated often to the 3 AM slot, while prime-time might have 80s and 90s movies. Now the idea seems to be that any newer movie which is set in the past is appropriate for TCM.
And TCM has begun to show 'cult' movies of rather sleazy content, rather than the more respectable fare they started out with in the past. I'm referring to movies such as 'Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!' Classic movies, indeed.
If people want to watch those kinds of movies, they can be rented from Netflix, or they might show up on some of the more eclectic movie channels, such as FLIX or RetroPlex or something, but why do they belong on a Classic Movie channel? Especially when the real classic movies are shown only on TCM, having been banished from the other channels? Every 'Faster, Pussycat' takes up a time slot that might have been given to a real classic movie.
As for Mark E.'s contention that TCM is PC-free -- are we watching the same TCM? The TCM I get on my TV observes all the PC high holydays --- Black History month being reverently presented every year. And with many of the movies about the black experience, we get a lecture by some black 'expert' who holds forth on the correct interpretation of what we are about to see.
TCM showed the ultra-controversial Birth of a Nation last year or so, but not without an accompanying exegesis by a black expert. And to think, Birth of a Nation was a mainstream movie when it was released.
Personally I think TCM is slowly departing from its classic roots and aiming for a younger, hipper more 'diverse' demographic. That will surely mean fewer of the wholesome old classics with their racially ingenuous characterizations and politically incorrect tendencies. I see fewer hours being devoted to the old movie greats, and more being given over to later movies, with their crassness, vulgarity, and politically correct unctuousness.
Maybe I am inclined to see the glass as half-empty, but I am very jealous and protective of my old movies, which are a piece of the dear, dead past I love.

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