Dear NBC: Hold the padding

THE GRIPE

Try running `It's a Wonderful Life' interruption-free

November 25, 2005|By CHRIS KALTENBACH | CHRIS KALTENBACH,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

A feature in which Sun writers and critics sound off about the movies.

Thanksgiving is over, so it's time to start gearing up for Christmas. Which means, of course, that It's a Wonderful Life will be showing up on TV soon.

It wasn't long ago that the 1946 movie - starring Jimmy Stewart as a small-town banker so despondent one Christmas Eve that he contemplates suicide, only to be stopped by an apprentice angel struggling to earn his wings - seemed to air nearly every day. Since the film had fallen into the public domain, any station could air it, whenever it wanted. Many of the prints were in sad shape, badly scratched and with scenes missing, but that didn't seem to make people revere the film any less.

A few years ago, Republic Pictures got the copyright back. Since then, Life has been presented only on NBC, a tradition that will continue this year, with airings set for Dec. 10 and Dec. 24, both at 8 p.m.

It's fine that NBC has exclusive rights to the film, especially since the version that airs now has been cleaned up considerably; it looks great. But the way the movie has been broadcast recently - with frequent commercial breaks, sometimes padded with NBC stars and other "celebrities" ruminating on what the film means to them - is no way to treat a classic. The idea is silly, the spots almost always vapid. Stretching the movie out to fill a three-hour time slot instead of running it at its original, 130-minute length does no one any favors, either.

Whaddya say, NBC? It's a Wonderful Life deserves to run on its own, without self-serving commentary from stars trying to bask in its reflected glory.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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