The PopCult Bookshelf

Img_9804This week the PopCult Bookshelf looks at a magazine that I finally subscribed to after being tempted for many years. Now Playing is a monthly guide to the movies on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). You might think it’s a bit odd to pay for a program guide that only covers one channel, but TCM is a special case.

For one thing, TCM is commercial-free and shows all its movies uncut. They also focus on classic movies, most of them more than twenty or thirty years old. TCM may well be the most cleverly-programmed television channel in history. Many times the movies flow into one another with the skill of a highly-talented deejay. Other times movies are lined up together because of goofy themes, like sharing a word in their titles.

The fact is, TCM programs the greatest and most notable movies in Hollywood’s history (and beyond), and since they put so much effort into what they do, it’s nice to have a printed guide with which to follow along.

nowplayingYou can find the schedule, which is the meat of this magazine, for free on the TCM website, but that doesn’t match the convenience of having a handy guide that you can keep next to your TV.

We’ve established that the channel deserves a magazine, but does the magazine live up to the channel?

The answer is yes.

Now Playing is a small magazine, about six by ten inches with 48 pages, but it packs those pages with loads of useful information. It’s also ad-free, unless you consider the entire magazine an advertisment for TCM. The first fifteen pages are devoted to brief articles that focus on that month’s offerings. January’s issue includes Robert Osbourne’s essay on meeting their “Star of the Month,” Joan Crawford, along with articles about the various programming highlights of the month and a column by Martin Scorsese. February focuses on their “31 Days of OSCAR” programming line-up and also includes columns by Osbourne and Scorsese.

The bulk of Now Playing is the schedule of that month’s programming. Given the clutter of having so many channels these days, it’s great to have a guide to this one channel to keep from missing out on any of the classics.

now playingMost months it’s got the added benefit of making it easy to record TCM’s regular programming blocks, like TCM Underground, or the late-late Sunday Silent and foreign movie showcases, but those features of the channel go on hiatus in February and August. It’s great to be able to see that this weekend’s TCM Underground (2 AM Eastern, late on Saturday) is a blaxploitation double-feature, or that late Sunday they’re showing a collection of Fatty Arbuckle shorts.

Hey, a week later TCM Underground is showing “Skidoo,” considered to be one of the worst movies ever made (Like a movie with Jackie Gleason dropping acid, or Groucho Marx as a crime lord called “God” could be bad. Well, there is Carol Channing running around in her underwear).

If you are a movie lover, and like me, have a taste for the classics and TCM, then Now Playing is a pretty good deal. Subscriptions are fourteen bucks a year, that’s a little more than a dollar a month. You get a handy guide and a reminder of what’s on the channel, and the articles are short, but sweet.

There is a bit of a lag when you first sign up. I subscribed before Halloween, and didn’t get my first issue (January) until the middle of December. Aside from that, Now Playing has been a great deal so far.