The Essentials (2001– )

TV Series  -  Documentary
8.3
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Title: The Essentials (2001– )

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9 April 2001 (USA)  »

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Featured in Private Screenings: Robert Osborne (2014) See more »

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Turner Classic Movies intro to classic film for novices
24 March 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This show has been running since 2001 on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday nights at 8pm. It usually debuts immediately after Turner Classic Movies' (TCM's) tribute to Oscar in February, runs 21 or 22 original episodes, and then repeats until Oscar month begins again (February 1) during which all TCM regular programming is preempted for the tribute to Oscar. I believe it is also preempted during "Summer Under The Stars" month in August during which TCM dedicates each day of the month to a different star.

This really isn't a "show" in the traditional sense. What occurs is a host or hosts have about a one to two minute introduction to the film, and maybe discuss why it is a classic. Then the movie follows, then there is a one-two minute conclusion about the film done by the host or hosts.

For the first five seasons, 2001-2005, there was one host. Directors Rob Reiner, then Sydney Pollack, then Peter Bogdanovich hosted the show. Since 2006 it has been TCM host Robert Osborne co-hosting with a series of entertainment figures. Molly Haskell and Carrie Fisher co-hosted for one year each in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Then, in November 2007, Rose McGowan was one of the guest programmers during TCM's guest programmer month. She did so well during her four movie slot and clicked so well with Robert Osborne that TCM invited her to co-host The Essentials during 2008. Now, Molly and Carrie may have come across a bit angry during their stints, but at least they seemed knowledgeable. Rose's year was an unmitigated disaster in my humble opinion, unable to do much more than agree with whatever Robert said. So much for TCM's experiment at drawing in the younger crowd with a younger host. For the next three years Alec Baldwin was co-hosting with Robert. In spite of fears from many corners that he might erupt into an anti-Republican rant and start throwing furniture around like the Samsonite gorilla, Alec was a perfect gentleman, had great opinions and observations often opposite that of Robert's and was just a genuine joy to have around.

In 2012 Drew Barrymore began the first of what will be at least a two year stint as co-host, and I have mixed feelings about her performance so far. She seems to click well with Robert yet she sometimes has weird observations like wanting to CGI out the guns in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and replace them with walkie talkies! Well folks, you can't say it's dull.

As for the movies picked, they run from the silent era - Steamboat Bill Junior, Modern Times, City Lights, Sunrise - to more recent films. For example, 1982's Tootsie was just recently one of The Essentials. For the most part though, the films are from the Studio Era, roughly 1930-1960, are "A-list" films, and demonstrate something important about filmmaking. In other words, if you want to see what long extinct Mascot Pictures was up to in 1932, or you are in the mood for a Ken Maynard western, this is not the time or the place on TCM to do so.


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