The two weeks it took to get cable, I was without television.
I didn’t miss it at all.
Those pandemic years of working mostly from home and wandering around the house hearing television shows blabbering from the wall, it was all just noise. Funny how you don’t recognize something as inane clatter until it’s gone silent.
I like the quiet at my new place. It’s been days since I’ve turned on the TV in the living room; the one in my bedroom is on a bit more often, but even then it’s usually on mute while I read at night. The visual of people on the screen feels like company, but the sounds can be pretty irritating.
But I do miss old movies. The Turner Classic Movies channel was my favorite. I’d tune in a few times a day to see what was playing. Often, it was something from the ‘40s – a crime story or wartime romance that was all but forgotten before Ted Turner decided to buy all the oldies and give them a platform.
This new place where I live doesn’t offer TCM on cable. There are no fewer than eight shopping channels, and whole blocks of channels devoted to sports I would never watch including car races. But no old movies.
The cable company says it stopped offering TCM because it wasn’t popular, and that most people only watched two movies on there a month. Even if that’s true, my own viewing habits would raise that average significantly.
I’ve missed all of TCM’s Judy Garland month: no “A Star is Born,” no “Meet Me in St. Louis.” No, “Wizard of Oz,” for goodness sake. I don’t like to think what I’ll be missing in July. If I were to find out it’s Gary Cooper month, I might have to move back to my old house.
And then there are all those friendly, knowledgable program hosts. Ben Mankiewicz likes to joke around, and he’s cute. Alicia Malone has a great Aussie accent, and knows a lot about the back stories of the movie productions. And I never bothered with the weekend “film noir” programming unit the dapper Eddie Muller started introducing those movies.
Funny how I lived this long without knowing who Gary Cooper was, or why Barbara Stanwyck was considered the best femme fatale of the pictures. I didn’t know why the last line of “Some Like it Hot” has long been considered among the funniest ever put on film. I knew Gene Kelly danced in the rain, but didn’t know he had a raging fever the day he filmed that scene in “Singin’ in the Rain” –something I learned from the hosts.
TCM put faces to all those names I would hear from my grandparents or would read about. How does a person get to be this age without having seen “The Apartment?” Or without being knocked flat by Ingrid Bergman’s impossible beauty in “For Whom the Bell Tolls?”
At the risk of sounding like an old cynic, I’ll say that the movies from those decades before I was born were richer, more life-affirming and more watchable – even the ones in black and white. Maybe especially the ones in black and white.
Craving an old flick, I bought “Meet Me in St. Louis” on cable the other day; it’s the story of a happy family. Nothing really bad happens, and there’s not much of a plot. But Judy Garland sings; behind the scenes she was falling for the director, and she married him the next year.
I learned all that on TCM.