The 20th anniversary of Turner Classic Movies deserved a more bombastic celebration than it got. Anyone lucky to attend the TCM Classic Film Festival this year had the opportunity to attend several panels and lectures about the history of the channel, right down to looking at the changes in marketing materials. Unfortunately, the only historical context about the channel viewers at home are privy to is TCM: Twenty Classic Moments, a brief documentary spotlighting over a dozen moments in the network’s history. It isn’t nearly as comprehensive as most audiences would like, but if you want a crash-course in what’s defined TCM and, in turn, what the network’s inspired in others, you’ll be pleased.
At a scant 34-minutes there really isn’t any in-depth exploration of what each individual moment did for the network. Host Ben Mankiewicz recounts each moment with a brief introduction, said moment is aired, and then we move on. Lather, rinse, repeat. I wasn’t expecting a week-long tribute, but some more background on how these events were situated, and most importantly why they were chosen, would have been nice.
The moments themselves are expected, but fun to watch, especially if you’re like me and haven’t seen them previously. We watch Robert Osborne’s first introduction of a movie, Gone With the Wind; the network officially being “turned on” by founder, Ted Turner; Mickey Rooney’s intense flashbacks to filmmaking during a turbulent episode of “Private Screenings;” Luise Rainer’s hearing aid malfunction at one of the earlier TCM Film Festivals; and the implementation of the Super Fan contest and the network’s Peabody Award. You can deduce why these moments are necessary, from both a network and audience perspective – the Super Fan moment giving back to the fans who make the network as popular as it is.
The lasting impact, overall, is diminished because of the briefness of it all. The network did a month-long tribute showing the movies that aired in their first day, but they really should do a proper retrospective, an hour long at least. TCM: Twenty Classic Moments does what it says, but you’ll clamor for more.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.