The TCM Doomsday Clock is Ticking.

A purge at the classic-movie channel bodes ill.

The TCM Doomsday Clock is Ticking.

What does Turner Classic Movies mean to you? What would you do if it disappeared? It hasn’t — not yet, anyway — but the braintrust has been canned that made the channel the rare outpost of the past in a media landscape slavishly addicted to the present. Laid off yesterday were TCM general manager (and 25-year vet) Pola Chagnon, senior vice president of programming and content strategy Charles Tabesh, vice president of studio production Anne Wilson, and two others, the latest casualties of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s fumble-fingered attempts to remake his corner of the content kingdom.

Why does this matter?  At a time when the streaming giants are purging their libraries and physical media becomes a niche item, Turner Classics is one of the last remaining outlets that allows a viewer to touch history — Hollywood history, American history, cultural history. Even The History Channel doesn’t do history anymore, because history doesn’t sell. But sometimes — even often — the things that don’t sell are the most necessary to a society’s health. There’s no experience like coming across an unknown noir or obscure comedy on TCM — watching it with others, sharing it with your kids — and, even better, appreciating the people who made it and the context in which it came to be. In a culture in which our phones constantly scream at us to look at them NOW, it’s the one place that still insists on the pleasures of then, an anchor in a heedlessly rushing screen-world. Even if you never watch TCM, its loss (or, more likely in the near term, radical “improvements” to its programming model) would be more than the loss of an entertainment channel. Classic movies would still exist, but only if you knew which ones mattered and where to look for them. There’d be no one left to point and say This was good. This still matters. This is where you came from.

What does TCM mean to you? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.

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