Friday, September 25, 2015

James Dean, TV Star

TCM is devoting an entire night tonight to actor James Dean. Now, you'd think that's a bit hard considering that he died young and only made three motion pictures. In fact, TCM will only be showing two of them, East of Eden at 2:30 AM and Rebel Without a Cause at 4:30 AM.

So how are they filling out the rest of the evening? With old TV shows. Back in the day, of course, there were a lot of theater anthologies which would show teleplays that sometimes were not much different from stage plays that you'd go to an actual theater to watch, the likeness coming from the fact that some of the series were broadcast live, at least for the people on the east coast. (I'd presume the folks on the west coast got kinescopes.) Dean did several of these before becoming a movie star, and it's these that are taking up the first half of the evening.

Note an anomlay in the schedule, however. TCM's schedule lists the first program, the Campbell Summer Soundstage, as a 30-minute program starting at 8:00 PM and going to 9:00 PM, which I'd think is wrong. Indeed, the second program, a Studio One show, is 60 minutes but theoretically given a 30 minute slot. Most likely is that Studio One comes on at 8:30 PM and will run 60 minutes, after which point the schedule seems to come together properly.

But of course, this brings up the question: should TCM be running TV series? There are things that I think are clearly appropriate for TCM. Those episodes of the Dick Cavett Show that TCM has shown are all interviews of people involved in classic cinema and as such not all that different from something original to TCM like Private Screenings. Documentaries about movie stars that were originally made for TV are something else that makes sense to show. And then there are some movies which started off as TV movies but were re-edited fot the big screen. Steven Spielberg's Duel is one prominent example, but there were also some episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that were stitched together with some extra material and released as movies.

The old TV drama anthologies, however? I'm not so certain. I'd also question the appropriateness of the Disneyland episodes that TCM have run in the Treasures from the Disney Vault installments, but that's clearly different. Dollars to doughnuts Disney has a big say in what TCM gets to show in those, and they're responsible for those old TV episodes showing up. Does anybody really expect the more prominent animated features to show up?

But if Robert Montgomery Presents can show up tonight, why, logically, shouldn't Alfred Hitchcock Presents show up next? And those are, I think, even more clearly not within TCM's purview.

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