Longtime TCM host Robert Osborne returned to work at the cable channel this week, taping segments in advance of his scheduled Oct. 1 return to the air, the New York Post reports.
Osborne has been off the air for about a month taking a break from work. In his absence a host some viewers still know mainly as “the young guy” — Ben Mankiewicz — has been filling in for Osborne.
Osborne, 80, is a fixture on the movie network, and in many ways has been the face of TCM for years. But his role is being redefined, with the plan calling for reduced airtime for Osborne along with a greater role at off-the-air promotional events.
Meanwhile, Mankiewicz — who’s 45 and not exactly a newbie at the channel — is expected to see his on-air role expanded.
“Starting Oct. 5, most movies shown in primetime on Friday nights will be introduced by Ben Mankiewicz, who has hosted the network’s classic movie showings on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons for nearly a decade,” the story reports, citing a TCM spokesperson. “There will be guest programmers on some Fridays, the spokesperson said.”
Mankiewicz will also see action hosting three films that will air Saturday nights after “The Essentials,” which is hosted by Osborne and actress Drew Barrymore. And Mankiewicz will host two movies running late Sunday nights.
“In October, Mankiewicz will host a Tuesday night series of films about characters with disabilities on Tuesday nights — with introductions filmed during Osborne’s vacation — as well as his first regular Friday night series, devoted to political films with guests like CNN’s Wolf Blitzer,” the report adds.
Manciewicz filled in during 2011 when Osborne took a five-month leave after having appeared on TCM every day since the channel was founded in 1994, the Post reports.
"Both Robert and Ben’s responsibilities have grown as the network has grown and we have expanded both their roles,” the TCM spokesperson said. "Part of what we want more from Robert is direct engagement with fans at events like the TCM Classic Cruise, The Road to Hollywood screening series and TCM Film Festival and other events, and this allows us to do that.”
Commenting on the impending changes, Mankiewicz said: "Robert’s not going anywhere — he’s still the Walter Cronkite of TCM.”
Mankiewicz added: "I think of the TCM audience the same way I think of women I’ve wanted to date — initailly they have no interest in me, but eventually I wear them down. One reason I think there was hestitation [when I first started] was fans’ desire to protect the network. We’re taking care of movies, we’re the guardians of these films, there are no commercials … and this young guy is coming in and what does it mean for Robert? Robert is Turner Classic Movies. It just took [the fans] a while to realize that everything is going to be the same.”