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Retro : Fan Fare : TNT CONTINUES TO PAIR UP FILMS WITH A HOST WHO CARES

July 24, 1994|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the last two years, actors, directors, sports figures, musicians and other celebs have turned cineastes as hosts of TNT's popular weekly showcase "Our Favorite Movies."

Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme talked about the 1959 thriller "North by Northwest" and the influence of its director, Alfred Hitchcock, on his career. "Seinfeld's" Jason Alexander wore a Roman toga to chat about the mythical adventure film "Jason and the Argonauts." The then-happily married Tom and Roseanne Arnold shared their romantic feelings for the Barbra Streisand-Robert Redford drama "The Way We Were."

"Our Favorite Movies: Summer Edition" kicked off its third season on July 7 with Phil Hartman of "Saturday Night Live" fame hosting the 1959 Billy Wilder classic "Some Like It Hot." ("Our Favorite Movies: Winter Edition" is scheduled to begin early next year.)

This week, Tim Burton hosts the 1953 horror film "House of Wax," which stars one of the "Batman" director's idols, Vincent Price. On Aug. 4, "NYPD Blue" Dennis Franz presents the 1972 Charles Bronson Mafia flick "The Valachi Papers." Country singer Randy Travis is on hand Aug. 11 for the 1960 Western "The Magnificent Seven." Aug. 17th will feature two surprise hosts and movie.

On Aug. 25, former Chicago Bear coach Mike Ditka hosts the 1974 Burt Reynolds football comedy "The Longest Yard." The "Summer Edition" concludes Sept. 1 with Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone offering his opinions on the 1951 Hitchcock masterpiece "Strangers On a Train."

"Our Favorite Movies" is the brainchild of Tom Karsch, TNT's vice president of sports marketing and network promotion. When it first began, the showcase consisted primarily of behind-the-scenes information and interviews with stars and directors.

In 1992, Karsch decided to revamp the movie-of-the-week franchise. And that something new was to get a celebrity host whose link to a particular film would vary "from those who had a sincere love for the movie to someone who had some connection to a movie. In year one, we had 'Anatomy of Murder' and we got Geraldo Rivera to host. What his take on it was how the murder mystery within the movie would play out in today's media."

So just how does TNT pick hosts and movies? According to Karsch, it's a combination of things.

"A guy like Phil Hartman--there was a guy whom we all liked. We think he has a great comedic sensibility. We gave him a call. We asked him what some of his favorite movies were and on his list was 'Some Like it Hot," which is a movie we had (in the Turner film library)."

With Dennis Franz and "The Valachi Papers," Karsch says, "there's a movie that's perfect. This guy has been in many Mafia-related movies and plenty of cop movies and his ("NYPD Blue") show. That was kind of an easy one for us and an easy one for him."

Karsch also wants to give viewers celebrity hosts from a variety of fields. Last year, Utah Jazz great Karl Malone hosted the 1948 John Wayne film "Three Godfathers." "I was doing some work with Karl Malone, and it turned out he was this huge movie fan. He loved Westerns and John Wayne. We went to him to do something a little different."

On the average, TNT tapes two hours of material with each host. "I think what you end up seeing on the air is an intro piece into the movie, which is about five-plus minutes long and we use them for 15 seconds and 30 seconds (after commercials). It's not an intense talking-head type stuff."

One of Karsch's favorite hosts was "Seinfeld's" loopy Michael Richards, who presented the 1964 Peter Sellers comedy "A Shot in the Dark," in a very Kramer-esque manner.

"It turns out he was a huge Peter Sellers fan," Karsch says. "When we got to his hotel to interview him, he had already concocted a whole scenario for filming this thing which he never bothered to tell anybody. He basically did the whole interview in a bathrobe. He set up this scenario so that TNT showed up actually a half-hour early as he was getting ready to do the interview. So we got him to do everything from gargling to changing to showing us what outfits he was thinking about wearing."

"Our Favorite Movies" airs Thursdays through Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. on TNT; it will air Wednesday Aug. 3 and 17 at 6 p.m.

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