Beyond the Screen #36 – TCM in Dire Straits

In line with general worldwide trends, layoffs have begun across the cable TV portions of Warner Bros. Discovery. This includes Pola Changnon, who had served as TCM general manager over 25 years, overseen by the corporate hand of Michael Ouweleen, president of Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Discovery Family and Boomerang. Several other firings and reshuffles have been instigated to dismantle the TCM leadership. Kathleen Finch, chairman and chief content officer for the cable division, told employees: “While change is never easy and can create a sense of uncertainty, I want to assure you that we remain fully committed to this business, the TCM brand, and its purpose to protect and celebrate culture-defining movies. As storytellers, that is our legacy, and we will continue bringing the history and impact of classic films to life on-air and in other ways”. The change comes amidst the TCM film festival.

A national treasure lies in jeopardy, the foundation for a bedrock film education made accessible to the public. TCM is, for the moment, free from commercials, played 24 hours a day, and brilliantly comprised of historically wide-ranging and expertly curated titles to make up a library without equal (not even from the likes of the Criterion channel). No streaming library can compare.

The move comes courtesy of WarnerMedia CEO David Zavlav, infamous for a spate of financially and culturally disastrous moves since the company’s merger with Discovery, who only last year made sure to have TCM hosts assuage public concern for the channel. “Nothing’s changed. We all feel very protective over the channel, and we know how precious it is, and increasingly rare. So, not on our watch.” Famous last words.

Based on his track record, it’s best to be weary of Zavlav, lest you want your cultural bibles buried and Batgirls disappeared from the face of the earth. Souls are being sold at rapid speed these days. It seems The Flash (which desecrates film history in its own manner by resurrecting long dead actors for cameo parts) is bombing too. The effects are poor enough that VFX artists who worked on your film are taking to Twitter to refute the claim that it looks that bad purposefully. Those ‘cameos’ are, as Miyazaki put it, an insult to life itself.

Supergirl is there, from the oft-forgot original movie, but instead of bringing in Helen Slater for a cameo, they completely computer-generated her younger self. Another heartbreak is seeing Christopher Reeve’s lifeless mould, who never planned on playing Superman again, saying “if someone said for 10 million dollars… I’d say no”. Worst of all is George Reeves, who’s stringent WB-contract trapped him in the role of Superman, damaging his career opportunities for years.