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The Washington Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning critic blogs at TVWeek.com with wit, humor and strong opinion.

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Tom Shales


February 2008 Archives

When Good Networks Do Bad Things

February 11, 2008 10:47 AM

Of all cable and broadcast networks, Turner Classic Movies is the least offensive when it comes to slapping supers all over the screen—promos and logos and “Hi, Mom” and all that other crappy clutter. This is one network that tries not to beat its viewers over the head every two minutes with a “message” about something airing three weeks from Tuesday.

So it was disheartening the other night when, as part of its ongoing “31 Days of Oscar” series, TCM committed the sacrilege of running its TCM.com logo in the lower right-hand corner of the screen just as “2001: A Space Odyssey” reached its fantastic climax: The “star child” is heading toward Earth (or just doing a fly-by to wave hello) and Richard Strauss’ “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is booming away on the soundtrack and all the inscrutable stuff that preceded it starts to make sense.

Of all the possible moments in the three-hour film, this was the absolute worst to mar with a stupid logo.

Were we supposed to jump up from our TVs with two minutes to go in the movie and rush to a computer to behold the network’s Web site? Who’s the stupid idiot who would have authorized that kind of blunder? It didn’t seem the work of a computer because it wasn’t on the hour, half-hour or quarter-hour. It was simply placed where it would do the most harm to the film.

Years ago, in its early days, TCM ruined a showing of “Gone With the Wind” by keeping the parental-warning logo on-screen for the first 20 minutes of the film. What an infernal distraction that was. It was also obviously a glitch, a mistake, whereas the “2001” abuse seems more a matter of someone being mean, perverse, evil or just fantastically dumb. Maybe it was a Kubrick hater lurking in the works.

TCM is still the most elegant network on cable or maybe anywhere in domestic television. So it’s even more discouraging when it screws up. It sounds like a little thing, but if you’d been watching, you might well have been as angered as I was.