I echo choochi's sentiment re cable providers. Back in the late 80's/early 90's I couldn't get cable but then I moved to a new building and was able to have it. At that time the provider only had AMC, back when they actually showed classic films. I was deliriously happy. Then they added TCM and I was done for.
I've loved these old movies since I was a young teen when the local NYC channnel 11 used to show old films on Saturday afternoons. When I actually watched the iconic Bogart, Davis and Cagney that I had always heard about, I couldn't get enough. What was great was how each film I saw was a wonder. Wuthering Heights in particular totally knocked me out. I'd ask my mom so many questions about certain actors and whether she watched any as a kid. I practically begged her to take me to see That's Entertainment when it came out. That's where I got my bearings on the scope of those films.The Esther Willimas (RIP) clips in all their splendor, all the musical numbers with Gene Kelly...well one gets the picture, I think.
There's stuff to bitch about re TCM and what they show and how often they are aired but much of that has to do with whatever agreements they have with the corporations that own them. Only recently have they been able to get permission to air films from Universal, Paramount and Fox. But I don't complain. One cannot watch TCM 24/7 (hard as we may try) so when I feel they are getting repetitive I just tune out for a while. I wish they would advertise a lot more on other cable channels, especially their own sister channels TNT and TBS.
Anyway, glad to see a thread about TCM.
BTW, I love Ben Mankiewicz.
I am intrigued by the Essentials conversations. I hardly think that Drew, Alec, and Robert actually sit there for a couple of hours and watch the films. I'm sure they probably film the convos' 3 at a time after maybe viewing the dvd at their leisure.