It’s both a corny cliche–and the ultimate compliment–to say that someone on radio or TV is like a close friend.
But, for me, that was Robert Osborne, the original and long-time Turner Classic Movies (TCM) host, who passed away at 84 Monday in New York.
I suppose if you watch a lot of TV, you watch a lot of different things and channels. But I watch very little TV,in terms of time or channel variety. TCM is a staple, and, over the years, I felt like Robert and I watched, rediscovered or found new favorites together.
Sound stalkerish? I don’t care, I loved the guy and he was good company.
He had the most comfortable, comforting on-screen presence I have ever seen. Calm, courtly, self-deprecating, encyclopedic and genuine.
Think of all the ways we come to watch old movies: nostalgic, jolly, melancholy, romantic, lonely. Bob reminded me of the best people who work in radio: he made you feel he was only talking to and with you. This is not trainable. Broadcasters either have it or they don’t, and some never discover it. He discovered it while working as a film historian, which followed a brief, forgettable movie and TV acting career.
He was a late, slow bloomer, taking decades to build a steady career, but has anyone ever more perfectly found their niche than this kind man, welcoming you into his den-like set and with a movie for your entertainment?
Imagine if he’d given up in 1965, when he was trying to get his first movie history book published? Or in the 1990s, when using “hosts” on movie channels was a passe idea?
Robert Osborne was so completely TCM that I doubt any other cable channel was so completely associated with a single personality. They’ll never be able to replace him. Best not to try.
We will never stop going back for more of Bogie, “The Thin Man”, Franchot Tone, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Have Gun, Will Travel”, the Rat Pack, westerns and more.
But we will be a little lonelier.
LISTEN HERE to Jack’s comments on Robert Osborne