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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The best cable channel

Turner Classic Movies celebrated its 20th anniversary on Monday. Of all the national cable channels, it's the one I like most. I suppose I could used to streaming old movies from Netflix or Amazon over the top, but TCM is easy to use, provides great variety, and has helpful commentary.

But more importantly, TCM is one of the few channels on cable TV that has held true to its original intention. Like ESPN, TCM today is essentially TCM in 1994: nearly uncut movies, letterboxed when appropriate (instead of the awful pan-and-scan), and ad-free aside from TCM's own promotions. No other channel on standard cable is like it; CNN has morphed from a top-shelf news source to the Malaysian Airlines Channel, Arts & Entertainment abandoned high-brow programming in favor of reality shows, and The Weather Channel has become sensationalist.

Well, there have been subtle changes at TCM. The host sets, the logos, and the movie intros have changed since 1994 when faux film noir shorts with Bill Cosby like this one and that one were used. Those were great.

I don't know what direction TCM will take when the incomparable Robert Osborne, about to turn 82, leaves the air. Nor can I be certain that Time Warner, the ultimate owner of TCM, won't do something stupid and insert ads. Let's hope not. In the meantime, if TCM were to vanish from standard cable, then standard cable would probably vanish from my house.