Monday, June 04, 2007

TCM's Rare Misstep
While Tom Shales over at The Washington Post reviews Turner Classic Movies' "Screened Out," their month-long investigation of "Gay Images in Film," I'll contribute my thoughts on their summer-long festival of family-friendly flicks, "Funday Night at the Movies."

The series began last night with the #1 family-friendly movie ever made - The Wizard of Oz (flying monkeys nothwithstanding.) Tom Kenny intro'd the movie, hosting a bunch of "tween" kids on a clubhouse-type set. This misstep here is the concept. We were led to believe, in the previews over the past month, that we'd gain some insight into the films by having all these kids around. However, Tom looked stiff as he reacted to the camera lens, giving me the impression he was reading from cue cards. The kids sat around without much to do, other than almost destroy a prop (on purpose). After the film, Tom provided some low-energy tall tales surrounding those monkeys, and then frightened the kids away with an unopened box of them.

It came across as erzatz Nickleodeon. At least "The Wizard" wasn't interrupted for additional shenanigans.

And then there's the whole "repackaging" aspect of this new endeavor. More on that in a bit.

Tom Shales rightly believes TCM is the classiest cable channel. And their original programming, mostly documentaries on stars and genres, is top notch. So I can forgive them this brief respite from brilliance. Hopefully they'll get this format together for future shows.

But I'm still left with a feeling they're just repackaging the same TCM stuff, and not trying anything new. Years ago, when I was a radio announcer and station music director in the wilds of New Hampshire, the general manager came to me with a new idea she and the sales staff were working on. "Jukebox Saturday Night," they called it, and the idea was to sell one hour blocks of ads to a client, who would "sponsor" the hour. "Great," I said. "Do we get to buy some new music, maybe expand our library of 50's and 60's tunes?"

"Oh no," said the GM. "We're going to work with the music we've got."

Jukebox Saturday Night never did get plugged in. I don't think the potential "sponsors" weren't all that thrilled with it, but I'll never know if additional music would have made the difference.

I'll be checking out TCM next Sunday night to see what they do next with this "Funday" idea.

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