Monday, 24 September 2012

Sundays without TCM

The days of Turner Classic Movies in India seem to be over. If rumours of the channel’s exit from the country are true then my regular Sunday dose of old Hollywood classics has come to an end. I have been a loyal TCM fan since Turner Entertainment started broadcasting as TNT in India several years ago.

The largely non-commercial movie channel from the Time-Warner stable discontinued its service a few days ago but so far there has been no official word from TCM.


On September 12, Tata Sky, the direct-to-home television service I subscribe to, flashed this terse message: “TCM channel is no longer available on Tata Sky as the telecast of the channel has been discontinued by the broadcaster.”

If TCM has, indeed, pulled out of India then I can only think of two reasons: financial non-viability and lack of popularity. I’m inclined to think it’s the former more than the latter. I’m sure there is no dearth of TCM fans in the subcontinent.

Nearly a fortnight has passed and I’m still feeling the absence of TCM in my living room. As exaggerated as it may seem, the “closure” of the channel is a culture shock. Where do I watch old black-and-white silent-and-sound classic films now? Movies dating back to the 1920s downward and across key genres like romance, musical, war, comedy, western, thriller, and adventure. Buying an occasional DVD is not the same as being able to watching old films round the clock.

MGM is a poor substitute for TCM but then there is almost nothing in common between the two channels. MGM shows some pretty good movies from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s but it lacks the class and charisma of TCM.

On Sunday, I sat down to watch a film or two but there was nothing appetising on the films menu. My restless thumb zigzagged over the remote, from Star Movies to HBO, Zee Studio to Sony Pix, AXN to MGM, and WB to Movies Now, the eight English movie channels beamed in India. And what did I get? Let me see… 

Among the more notable fare, Star Movies telecast Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smith, Speed, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Salt, and Home Alone—all reruns of reruns.

HBO was equally predictable with Yogi Bear, Thor (for lunch and dinner), Sky Kids: The Island of the Lost Dreams, Troy, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.

Zee Studio, a part of the media and entertainment company Zee Group, was none too original either. The channel’s film menu for the day consisted of The Incredible Hulk, the more credible version with Edward Norton as the green goliath, Rambo II & III, Scary Movie 3, and The Sixth Sense.

Sony Pix did better with reruns of Madagascar and Angels and Demons and at least four movies I had never heard of—Underworld: Awakening, Hook, Furry vengeance, and The Eye. I wasn't tempted to watch any.

AXN broadcasts films in between sitcoms and reality shows. Yesterday’s fare included Bicentennial Man and Meet The Fockers. I have seen both and prefer Robin Williams in the former to Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro in the latter or its prequel Meet The Parents. There was no saving grace in the Stiller-De Niro films that I could think of. 

MGM showed a few good films most of which I’d seen before, notably Interiors by Woody Allen, The Offence starring Sean Connery, Under Fire with its power-packed cast of Nick Nolte, Ed Harris, Gene Hackman, and Joanna Cassidy, Curse of the Pink Panther with David Niven as the Pink Panther, The French Lieutenant's Woman which proves why Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep are such fine actors, and Triumph Of The Spirit with Willem Dafoe in a compelling role set during WWII. 

WB had only one movie that was worth 120 minutes of your time—Million Dollar Baby—and most of us have already seen it.

Movies Now, owned by Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd which publishes The Times of India, vied with Star Movies in the telecast of the reruns, such as, Robocop 2, Marmaduke, Spider-Man 3, Conan the Destroyer, Night at the Museum, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and Jurassic Park III. If I were held by the scruff of the neck and forced to watch any one of these films, I’d pick Conan; he’s a fictional and comic-book character I like, a role that fit the  6' 2" Arnold Schwarzenegger like armour. The bunch of oddball characters, including the 7' 1" Bombaata (the late Wilt Chamberlain) and the 5' 10½" Zula (Grace Jones), made this film an enjoyable fare. A tall film by any measure.

Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart in The Shopworn Angel

For some reason TCM India continues to show its schedule on its website. Here’s what I might have watched on Sunday had the channel still been around…

1. Rose Marie, 1954: Howard Keel and Ann Blyth
2. Random Harvest, 1942: Ronald Colman and Greer Garson
3. Grand Hotel, 1932: John Barrymore and Greta Garbo
4. Mrs. Parkington, 1944: Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson
5. The Clock, 1945: Robert Walker and Judy Garland
6. The Shopworn Angel, 1938: James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan
7. The Moon Is Blue, 1953: William Holden and Maggie McNamara
8. A Farewell To Arms, 1932: Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes

Now compare these films with the ones broadcast by the eight English movie channels and you’ll know why my Sundays are never going to be the same again. I’m hoping Turner Classic Movies does a Turneround, hopefully, by this Sunday.

18 comments:

  1. You've definitely been gypped there Prashant - sorry if TCM India really is a thing of the past. The version available in the UK (which was TNT too as I recall) was a European version that has very little in common with its much more exciting American version but it's a question of rights as big chunks of the films controlled by Time Warner in the US are limited to that country (including the RKO library for instance). What a shame - let's hope something will come and fill that gap!

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    1. Sergio, you're telling me! I hope TCM is "not a thing of the past" and if I remember correctly the channel, as TNT, had gone out of circulation before returning in its current avatar as TCM. The channel definitely shows far better films in the US than it used to in India though I'm not sure about TCM in the UK. For me, though, what the channel broadcast was good enough as there was no other alternative save for buying VCDs and DVDs of old films.

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    2. TCM - Best made movies with such class,elegance and soul. Rest of the English movie channels cant ever match this channel showing modern movies which seldom leaves u any special feeling. I cant believe we cant see this anymore in India. Its is biggest disappointment and rude shock to all TCM fans. I hope someone brings it back and soon.

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  2. I don't watch much TCM. I rarely watch movies made before the 1970s, and not that many after.

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    1. Charles, I enjoyed watching films on TCM and visits to the channel became regular since I created my blog and started writing about films. In any case I like watching early black-and-white movies.

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  3. I hope this is not true. T C M, which we get in Manila, shows great old movies, MGM mostly junk but not all.

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    1. Mel, I think TCM Asia, which beams the channel into India, is common to your part of the world too though it might have long-term plans for the Philippines. I don't watch everything on MGM. I agree, they show a lot of junk.

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  4. I feel for you! right now we have the cricket and that seems to dominate everything despite the rotten weather spoiling all the matches.

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    1. Mystica, I watched a few minutes of a couple of matches in the ongoing T20 World Cup in Colombo though I'm not particularly enamoured by the sport, not since the rigging scandals and India's consistent inconsistency on the field.

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  5. I can't imagine not having TCM. What a shame! Hope you are far away from the flooding.

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    1. Patti, I can't imagine watching English movies without TCM either. It's not like there's a good substitute—there isn't right now.

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  6. I can understand your grief about TCM being yanked-off as I had been terribly heart-broken when they took TNT off-air{If I remember correctly they made it a 24 hour cartoon channel!}. Having been without a TV for the better part of the year, I didn't watch much TCM. Doesn't the Net have free downloads of old English movies?

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    1. Neer, you're right about TNT going off the air sometime in the late 1990s and it was a long time before they replaced it with TCM as we know it now. I rarely watch television and the only time I do is when I feel like sitting down to watch a good film, usually an old classic. The internet does have free downloads of old English movies but I believe they take a lot of time downloading, sometimes as much as all night in spite of a good internet connection. but it's nothing compared putting on the television set and watching a film with the mere click of a button.

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  7. Liked you piece about TCM as they reflect my thoughts exactly... I opted for Tata sky for TCM and BBC entertainment.They have chosen to discontinue both .Its bad that there is no information passed on to the subscriber about the decisions. Hope they bring it back soon.

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  8. TCM might find an internet subscription model to be profitable. I would gladly pay $10/mo so I could dump FIOS cable. I do not watch all the other channels. I can find the PBS News Hour content on the internet. That is the only other channel I watch. I can also get PBS over the air.

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  9. can anybody tell me how to get back TCM channel back to indian TV,. are there no lovers for old BW movies ,..in banglore

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  10. me also a big fan of old Hollywood classics and missing TCM in Kolkata cable channels. I think TCM should re think to reintroduce the channel in to India

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