When I was a kid, movies on commercial TV were how I was able to see old, oldish and last year’s movies before VCRs became standard home equipment. But watching movies that way now seems like a waste of aesthetic attention — I stick to DVDs these days. With the excised profanity, pan-and-scan formatting, ad interruptions, and now those animated network banners that march across the bottom of your screen like a Sergio Aragones margin doodle for Mad that somehow barged into the panel frame — even Mad would have considered that rude — watching anything but a pre–ratings era flick on Turner Classic Movies is an invitation to be irritated.
Now I’ve found another reason to be annoyed. Last weekend, after a long day of entertaining under-10-year-olds during a family visit to the East Coast, I wasn’t too picky about what emanated from the flat screen once I collapsed on the couch. But if Bravo is in the last throes of airing The Godfather, I’m there. And if a friggin’ banner wants to tell me that they’re showing Part II next, fine, fine. Just let me enjoy those final moments when Michael Corleone lies about killing his sister’s husband in his father’s den of power and then director Francis Ford Coppola wipes the screen black as the door of corruption is shut on Michael’s last remnant of decency in his existence: worried wife Kay. But as soon as Diane Keaton’s face disappears — with hardly a second to bask in the chill of this all-time great cinema close — Bravo splits into squeezed upper and lower screens, and suddenly the Paramount logo for Part II begins rolling above, while the first movie’s credits run below.
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Way to kill a mood. No chance to breathe after viewing an intense classic, nor to honor the people who made the first film, nor even revel in the excitement of a studio logo announcing the arrival of an awesome sequel. I know the idea is to take the commercial break away from the end of one program and the beginning of another so people can’t switch — there will be time enough for commercials in the middle of the movie — but this is a new low in edited-for-TV impatience. Really, who’s going to go from enjoying The Godfather to thinking, “Hmmm . . . is The Two Coreys on right now?”