Friday, February 7, 2014

The Wonderful World of TCM...on demand

I think I have recently seen maybe the greatest thing to ever air on Turner Classic Movies, and that's saying something since, as we all know, it is The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind. But before I get to that, allow me to discuss something else I saw, something that is very well known but not something I need to see again.

I had vague memories of seeing the original "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," but stimulated by the release of Ben Stiller's remake, I saw the Danny Kaye picture pop up on demand and figured I'd check it out. Well, I understand now why my memories were only vague. To me, it's a forgettable movie that disappears from my consciousness almost as soon as I see it.

I'm sure Danny Kaye fans will want to stick my pistle up my pestle for saying this, but I just don't "get" the guy. I acknowledge his talent, but his movies just don't seem to do much for me. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for "Mitty." I'll say this: I haven't even seen the Ben Stiller version, but I'm sure this one is better.

I'll tell you what's better than just about anything: The episode of "Private Screenings," the long-form chat show hosted by Robert Osbourne, featuring as its guest...Robert Osbourne! That's right, our beloved Bobby Osbo sat down on the other side of the set and faced an interrogation from Alec Baldwin.

Well, actually, it was a spirited but affectionate conversation between two guys who are clearly great friends and who share a fine on-screen chemistry. This is perhaps a tad ironic considering some of the behavior for which Alec has made headlines lately, but you can't come away from this special not seeing the bond still enjoyed by the former "TCM Essentials" co-hosts.

Somehow I missed this when it first aired. This is what life does to you when you no longer own a DVR. You have to endure can't hoard episodes of Crash and Bernstein...and most significantly, you nearly miss a Bobby Osbo special and must stumble upon it while checking the TCM on demand lineup.

This "Private Screenings" is itself an "essential" for any TCM lover. You get the Secret Origin of Osbourne himself as well as some background on the start of the network. Later you see some highlights from past "Private Screenings" episodes, including Robert Mitchum sandbagging with non-answers and Mickey Rooney acting out a past rage and making our guy more than a little uncomfortable.

I had heard many of the stories Osbourne tells, but the producers of this show unearth some great footage to really animate them. There's a clip of Bobby greeting Bette Davis at an AFI event in the 1970s, a pivotal incident that got him exposure and led to some daytime TV appearances. I enjoyed that anecdote before, but to see the actual encounter is something else. Best of all are the amazing snippets of Osbourne acting on soap operas!

Baldwin is a skilled interviewer and an ideal partner for this exercise, though fans of the old AMC may be taken aback by his dismissal of former frontman Bob Dorian. He means it as a tribute to Osbourne, not necessarily a slam on Doran, though. Bobby Osbo himself is, as always, the epitome of class, a true gentleman and someone whose love of classic film is always evident. The last segment of the program is an almost unbearable montage of celebrities offering cheesy soundbites in tribute, but if anyone deserves that kind of treatment while they're still around to see it, it's Mr. TCM.

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