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Creator / Turner Classic Movies

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Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is a long-running, commercial-free cable television network owned by Warner Bros. Discovery and dedicated to airing classic films, primarily from the Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,note  United Artists, RKO, and Janus film libraries. TCM daily airs many familiar classics (most of them pre-1980 and often pre-1970 releases), as well as tons of foreign films and obscure rarities that likely would otherwise never see the light of day — including some stuff that nobody would think about, like trailers and even two-reel live-action comedies. The network also makes a point of airing no outside commercials, although between (never during) films they will show old film trailers, short commercials for the network's merchandise, and other interstitial material.

TCM was launched by Ted Turner on April 14, 1994, with Gone with the Wind the first film aired. The late Robert Osborne was the primary on-air Host for the network from 1994 to 2016. Ben Mankiewicz (grandson of Herman J.!) joined in 2003, mainly handling daytime and weekend airings while Osborne continued to introduce films in prime time during the week. After Osborne's death in 2017, Mankiewicz took over as the primary host. Tiffany Vazquez served as Saturday daytime host from 2016 to 2018; since then, Alicia Malone and Dave Karger have rotated to host whichever slots Mankiewicz doesn't do. (They're occasionally joined by others; see Guest Host, below.) Some of the more obscure films presented on TCM have no host, however.

The network won a 2008 Peabody Award for their dedication to broadcasting and restoring classic and foreign films.

On March 4, 2019, it was announced that Warner Bros. would take over operations of TCM, along with former Turner networks Cartoon Network/[adult swim] and Boomerang, effectively dissolving Turner Broadcasting as an autonomous unit.

Compare and contrast to AMC, which was once much like TCM (with genial host Bob Dorian) before it experienced Network Decay. This was partially because TCM had gained the rights to so many of the classic movie catalogs, and partially as a way to appeal to younger audiences through the use of more contemporary movies and acclaimed original dramas like Mad Men.

Notably, even when using Audio Descriptions was at its lowest adoption rate in the mid-2000s, TCM has continued to be one of the largest advocates of this service, which helps to allow those who aren't able to see a film still enjoy it with narrated descriptions on much of TCM's library.

You can find its Web site here. The official YouTube channel can be found here. A selection of classic films curated by TCM can be found as one of the hubs on HBO Max.

"Turner Classic Tropes":

  • Artifact Title: The annual 31 Days of Oscar marathon originally aired in March, same month as the Academy Awards Ceremonies. When the ceremony moved to February, the marathon did too, but retained the title and the 31-day format, simply carrying over to the beginning of March. Subverted in 2023 when the ceremony and thus marathon were held in March again.
  • Bad Export for You: There are channels that go by names such as TCM France, TCM UK, and TCM Asia, but their programming is not the same as the US flagship. This is presumed to be related to international rights to movies (though as Warner Bros. owns the Turner/MGM stuff outright, that they can show endlessly without legal snafus). Many of these started life as versions of TNT before that network had its' original goal essentially stolen by TCM.
  • Colbert Bump: For the songs they use in their promos, especially the “TCM Remembers” tribute.
  • The Criterion Collection: TCM airs many of its titles, and in 2016 launched a joint venture with Criterion to create a subscription online streaming service called FilmStruck. This folded in 2019 (as WarnerMedia began closing niche streamers to pave the way for HBO Max) to be followed by Spiritual Successor The Criterion Channel.
  • Double Feature: The TCM Underground wee-hours block of all-things-cult-cinema programmed two features linked by a performer, director, or theme. With themes, this could be as broad as a pair of Blaxploitation movies or as specific as "sci-fi fantasies with Valley Girl protagonists" (the November 2020 double bill of Earth Girls Are Easy and Alien from L.A.).
  • Film Noir: Is naturally featured on the channel, including the weekly Noir Alley series hosted by historian and "Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller.
  • Guest Host:
    • In 2011 Robert Osborne took a five-month sabbatical following a surgical operation, leading TCM to employ a number of guest hosts in his absence.
    • The Essentials, a weekly presentation of a selected film which airs on Saturday evenings, has featured celebrity guest hosts since its debut. Initially the feature had a single host, with Rob Reiner (2001–03), Sydney Pollack (2004) and Peter Bogdanovich (2005) doing the honors. In 2006 Robert Osborne assumed primary hosting duties, teaming up with Molly Haskell (2006), Carrie Fisher (2007), Rose McGowan (2008), Alec Baldwin (2009–11), Drew Barrymore (2012–14), and Sally Field (2015). After a two-year interregnum (following Osborne's death), Baldwin took over as the primary host in 2017, variously teaming that year with David Letterman, Tina Fey, and William Friedkin. The series took another break in 2018 before Ben Mankiewicz took over the following year, co-hosting with Ava Duvernay (2019) and Brad Bird (2020).
    • TCM also has an occasional "guest programmer" feature, in which a special guest (usually, though not always, a celebrity) chooses a lineup of films for a given night and pairs with a regular TCM host to introduce them.
    • In 2013, TCM introduced a new Friday Night Spotlight feature, with a guest host joining Osborne to present films based around a given subject or theme.
    • In 2017 Eddie Muller began hosting the Film Noir-specific Noir Alley on Saturdays at midnight.
    • Jacqueline Stewart began hosting Silent Sunday Nights in 2019.
  • In Memoriam:
  • Internal Homage: Started its debut broadcast with Gone with the Wind, which had also kicked off its older sister channel TNT in 1988.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: One of the best networks to do this on. When TCM screens a film not available on a legitimate DVD release, TCM subscribers record the film and...share the wealth...with people who don't have access to TCM.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: The mini-documentaries that TCM runs to fill time between features—usually short programs focusing on a particular filmmaker or movie star—use this trope a lot. Typically movie stills or production stills will be coupled with a lot of camera panning.
  • Letterbox: They sometimes show an educational short explaining to non-cinephiles how aspect ratios work and why letterboxing is a good idea. Also notably, they almost always run the films they air in their original aspect ratio and completely uncensored. This even occurs on the HD feed, whereas TBS and TNT will stretch out films across if they only have the pan and scan standard def version on their HD channels. (That said, there have been some odd exceptions in recent years; their current print of The Thing from Another World is formatted to 1.85:1, for instance. There are also occasional cases where no better print of a film in question is available besides a pan-and-scan TV print.)
  • Marathon Running: They love this. Marathons of films by certain directors, from a specific time period or genre, exploring a particular theme, or starring a given actor (usually on his/her birthday) are particularly frequent. Examples:
    • An all-day Akira Kurosawa marathon on what would have been his 100th birthday in 2010.
    • In honor of Judy Garland's 90th birthday (June 10, 2012), they gave a 24-hour marathon of her films which were chosen by historian John Fricke (an expert on Judy Garland's work and The Wizard of Oz), with Fricke acting as Robert Osborne's co-host for the day.
    • They also honored actress Vivien Leigh by playing a 24-hour marathon of her films on what would have been her 100th birthday (November 5, 2013).
    • Every August TCM presents an event called Summer Under the Stars, wherein every day of the month is devoted to a 24-hour marathon focusing on the works of a legendary movie star or beloved character actor.
    • They also have an annual 31 Days of Oscar event, showcasing Academy Award-winning or nominated films (including many more contemporary films than under their usual format) for a month leading up to that year's ceremony.
    • One of their most admirable series is Race and Hollywood, which goes back to the earliest days of the network. Over an entire month, usually in the spring, they show a series of films about, starring, and by non-white people, with a focus on how the movies influence the dominant culture's view of non-whites as well as non-whites' view of themselves. Another series, Screened Out, did the same for LGBT films, actors and filmmakers, The Projected Image looked at the history of disability on film, and in 2005 there was "Religion on Film".
    • For about 20 years starting at the Turn of the Millennium, the New Year's Eve prime time/early morning lineup was ALWAYS the three That's Entertainment! Clip Show films followed by the Spinoff That's Dancing! This superseded an older tradition of running the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies. In 2021, a new marathon was introduced: all six movies from The Thin Man series, with the That's Entertainment! marathon pushed forward to the late morning/afternoon slots, but this only lasted two years total.
    • New Year's Day usually has a marathon of science fiction movies either during the day or prime time/late night. The 2023 prime time marathon had the twist that all the films also qualified as comedies (Spaceballs, The Reluctant Astronaut, etc.).
    • Thanksgiving Day's morning and afternoon is given over to classic family films such as National Velvet, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the like. (The Muppets Take Manhattan is almost guaranteed.)
  • Muppet Cameo: Kermit the Frog was a guest host in 2007.
  • Network Decay: Averted thus far, as explained in detail on this page. TCM has ventured timorously into the world of commercials in The New '10s, mostly for its own products relating to the film industry (video releases, books, Hollywood bus tours, the TCM Film Festival, the TCM Classic Cruise). They also have started straight-up commercials for Francis Ford Coppola's vineyard, aka the "TCM Wine Club" — and even then there's a classic movie undertone to it considering who owns it.
    • Amusingly, there's a small (but vocal) minority of viewers who assert that TCM has decayed, for a myriad of reasons that can seem ridiculously arbitrary to other fans of the channel; it's been charged that TCM now airs too many "modern" films, or too many foreign films, or it's being "taken over" by The Criterion Collection, or it's getting too politically correct, and so on. A 2016 petition that demanded the network only show Golden Age films made prior to 1960 was ripped apart by the denizens of the network's forum.
    • The Latin American version, which even covered another aspect of "abandoned stuff" by broadcasting old shows (from Bonanza to The X-Files), showed a slight decay, possibly inspired by low ratings, in the mid to late 2010s, where movies of 21st century started to become slightly common and impromptu marathons of Lost can be found at least once a week. Nevertheless, the channel still runs mostly on movies made before 2000.
  • "Nighthawks" Shot: The "Open All Night" interstitial that TCM used to run during its late night/early morning programming ends with a live-action shot staged to look just like the Nighthawks painting.
  • Obituary Montage: The channel airs a "TCM Remembers" tribute each December, showing the various film personalities (from both sides of the camera) who have died in the preceding year. The tributes are noted for their strong production and execution, along with unconventional but fitting music choices from the likes of Lord Huron and M83.
  • Pan and Scan: TCM averts this whenever possible, but will occasionally show a film in this format when that's all they're provided with. For example, they aired a cropped version of A New Hope using the TBS 2011 Special Edition master in July 2019.
  • Retraux: Whenever TCM runs a silent movie with a TCM-commissioned soundtrack (usually by Robert Israel), the composer's credit is shown on a grainy background meant to imitate the look of grainy scratched-up silent movies.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: In 2002, a special sing-along edition of The Wizard of Oz was hosted by Robert Osborne and the Powerpuff Girls to promote the release of their movie.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silence Is Golden: The Silent Sunday Nights feature. Most every Sunday — save for the month-long 31 Days of Oscar each spring and occasionally other marathons — TCM shows a Silent Movie at midnight Eastern, 9 pm Pacific.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Hoo, boy. During the three-minute or so spots for a movie they're going to air, they practically show enough scenes that a decently accurate article about it on The Other Wiki could be written. In recent years, they've stopped creating their own spots for individual films in favor of the theatrical trailers, though those sometimes fall under this trope.

Alternative Title(s): TCM