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Thanks to the rise of streaming, there are vast libraries of titles that are waiting to be discovered or revisited, though cable still has its own gems waiting to be discovered. In fact, Turner Classic Movies, or TCM for short, is still a fantastic channel for film lovers, and actor Alex Winter is one of the people who truly understands the pros of the longtime cable favorite.
It’s part of the reason that TCM enlisted his help in introducing the network’s special March programming block, Growing Up On Screen. With his collection kicking things off at the beginning of the month, focusing on the works of screen legends Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, Alex Winter was on hand to speak with me about the series and the future guest lineup. As we were getting into the heart of that particular conversation, Mr. Winter took a moment to praise the (nearly) 30-year-old network for what it does best:
They have great taste, and so the films they select are usually very interesting. That was the case with ours. I’m a huge Judy Garland fan. I started as a child actor, mostly doing Broadway musicals throughout the bulk of my childhood. So I started as a song and dance kid, and Judy Garland was a titan. Probably the greatest child star who ever lived, in terms of talent, in my opinion, and just an incredible performer. Through the assistance of former child stars, specially curated lineups are presented to viewers on a weekly basis.
Another reason for TCM’s Growing Up On Screen lineup, as well as Alex Winter’s involvement, is the fact that last year saw the actor/documentary filmmaker releasing a movie about the business of child actors. As Winter’s career has seen him involved with documentary hits like The Panama Papers and Zappa, last summer’s debut of Showbiz Kids helped show the world the highs and lows of growing up in the spotlight. So, in connection with that film being fresh in the minds of viewers, TCM crafted this month’s lineup of the most iconic performances from the legends of child acting.
Alex Winter’s appearance happened to focus not only on Judy Garland’s career, but also Mickey Rooney’s. Just as he proclaimed himself a fan of Garland’s filmography, Winter just as much a self avowed fan of her frequent co-star and his respective filmography. Featuring films from both Garland and Rooney to kick off this month’s special block, Alex Winter went deeper into why this classic era of films hit him how it did, and why taking part in this TCM event was so exciting.
But I also was a Mickey Rooney fanatic when I was quite young, so it was fun to get into those films. They sort of hit all of my core interests from that world. I started tap dancing when I was quite young, and Fred Astaire was really my idol, and kind of what I aspired to be. Which was odd for a kid living in the midwest in the ‘70s, but there you go. Being able to talk about all of those actors was really a thrill.
Through curation and hosted segments like the ones that make up Growing Up On Screen, Turner Classic Movies has remained one of the last bastions of bespoke film criticism and examination. It was hardly the only network to do so, as a decade prior to TCM coming online, American Movie Classics started to do that very same work. Of course, the big difference it that AMC eventually evolved into more of a standard cable network, ditching the format and the name it originated in 2007, eventually becoming the home of shows like The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul.
It almost feels like a supernatural feat for TCM to have lasted as long as it has, especially in a world where cable networks are really starting to pivot harder into unscripted content and more. Yet, so long as there are movie lovers like Bill and Ted star Alex Winter out there, ready to lend a hand and keep the wheels turning, there’s hope for the network to last into its third decade, and beyond. And with some of Winter's own films, like The Lost Boys, the Bill & Ted series, and even his cult classic comedy Freaked all classics that could find themselves on TCM in at some point in the future, a new generation of fans will be exposed to the platform as well. (Though, the fact that the TCM lineup is tied into the HBO Max platform surely does help those chances quite a bit.)
Turner Classic Movies’ Growing Up On Screen will be running throughout the month of March, with each new collection airing on Tuesdays, and featuring such guests as Mara Wilson, Todd Bridges, and Jodie Foster. And if you’d like to see Alex Winter’s documentary Showbiz Kids, that is available through HBO Max’s vast streaming library. Should you not already be a subscriber, check out the current promotion that’ll net you six months of access at a discount.