Pros: Free-TV – Broadcasting vintage Columbia films via digital sub-channel. Columbia Pictures produced a quantity of quality entertainment in their glory days.
Cons: Repetitive showings. Mid-scene commercial placement. Columbia Pictures includes a few forgettable films in the schedule rotation.
The age of 21st century broadcasting has given birth to the digital sub-channel. By government decree, your local station has scrapped its clunky analog signal for the sleeker, slimmer digital version – liberating sufficient bandwidth to allow for a spawn of surrogate channels to proliferate.
Can you getTV?
The 1989 acquisition of Columbia Pictures by Sony Electronics included a catalog of feature films and short subjects whose numbers are estimated to be in excess of 3,500. On February 3rd, 2014, Sony entered the sub-digital fray with the introduction of getTV as the catalog’s catalyst. Despite efforts to reveal any applied acronymic significance to the getTV name, it simply appears that factors such as memorability and brevity were paramount.
As of this posting, getTV network is available in nearly 80 markets, nationwide.
Cast & Crew
Despite its Poverty Row origins, superb directors and performers such as Frank Capra and Barbara Stanwyck promptly positioned Columbia as one of the industry’s premiere studios. Though M-G-M had an unbeatable stable-of-stars, Columbia‘s slouch-proof rookie ranks featured the likes of William Holden, Glenn Ford, Rita Hayworth, Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak. Veteran refugees from RKO – including Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Robert Mitchum – offer an additional degree of gravitas.
While RKO Radio has its fine film noir catalog and Universal its horror, Columbia mogul Harry Cohn (1891-1958) favored no particular genre – resulting in a prolific cross-section of most. Early horse-operas were the low-budget cash-cows that filled theater seats. Sony now hopes that otherwise idle weekend viewers will once again partake of their white-hatted Durango Kid – and the often incongruous comic relief of singing cowboy Smiley Burnette – with its dedicated Saturday marathon of oaters.
Until recently, Thursday prime-time featured the films of one particular performer per month. Most notable were the dozen-plus noir mysteries from the Boston Blackie series (1941-47), where Chester Morris plays the reformed jewel thief with tongue-in-cheek and a heart of gold.
Perhaps less notable was Bogie’s recent turn. One of his early films – Love Affair (1932) – was produced at Columbia – and later his Santana production company used the studio as distributor – but his best years were spent at Warner Bros. This notwithstanding, Columbia enables a memorable cinematic moment such as occurs in Dead Reckoning (1947), when Bogart and Lizabeth Scott (driving a now-priceless, hand-built Lincoln Continental with a deceased bartender in the trunk) are stopped by a motorcycle cop for running a red light – as they chain-smoke and vamp through some equally classic dialogue.
Resplendent in lapping waves of muted orange and silver, the getTV format is jazzy, upscale and unique. This motif is repeated as the foundation of its excellent website, where comprehensive movie schedules, featured players and a list of participating markets can be accessed.
Free-TV and the subsequent broadening of one’s options are most always an asset. Though referred to in this household as the All Columbia All The Time channel, many of the more obscure films featured would be otherwise unavailable in any format. I was sufficiently enamored with the Dino De Laurentiis spy spoof Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die (1966), that I checked its format availability at Amazon.com. To my disappointment, only the theatrical lobby poster emerged as the result of my search. If not for getTV and a trickle of electricity, I would be a substantially less entertained human than I currently am.
Considering their collective ages, the films broadcast on the getTV network are in excellent physical condition. To our viewing pleasure, there’s no telling what obscure, bizarre or previously unknown cinematic nugget may appear.
“When Gidget goes Hawaiian, she goes all the way” – Title theme lyric from Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961).
The surf was up in a major way at Columbia in the early sixties. A gaggle of Gidgets (including Deborah Walley and Sandra Dee) lined-up to romance the ever-warbling Moondoggie (James Darren), while teen idols Tab Hunter, Fabian, Shelley Fabares and Barbara Eden gathered for the semi-classic Ride The Wild Surf (1964) – one of the better genre entries of the period.
Despite witnessing the occasional Screen Gem, we have all experienced one or two performers who underwhelm. Couple this with a serious bout of repetitive airings and a second-helping of The Way We Were (1973) assumes all the digestibility of last night’s batter-fried squid.
We current attendees of Columbia U are cool with the fact that Free-TV funding requires the requisite commercial load. What isn’t cool is the random insertion of said pauses – frequently in the midst of a pivotal performance – while the less traumatic between-scene insertions have been the standard since 1948. In an otherwise successful enterprise, the getTV professors of profit placement are currently in a state of flunk.
The aforementioned quirk-or-two aside, Sony has assembled a consistent, quality showcase for its acquired legacy catalog – and if you can’t stay awake long enough to catch a particular ending, the film in question is sure to run again and again before the month is through.
Check their website for local market availability.
The getTV logo is a trademark of Columbia Pictures Television Holdings, Inc.