Yes, people do still watch TV together (maybe)

Summers are stuffed with TV choices -- including the year's best show, HBO's "The Newsroom." Still, it's good to see Turner Classic Movies offering an alternative -- movies (billed as "Essentials Jr.") that might be watched as a family. Here's the story I sent to papers, interviewing Bill Hader ("Saturday Night Live"), who hosts:


In our fragmented world, people retreat
to alternate TV sets. Families split into separate bubbles of MTV,
Nickelodeon, ESPN, Lifetime and such.

That may be OK, but Bill Hader fondly
recalls movies as a group experience. “This was our No. 1 time to
be together as a family,” he said.

So it makes sense that Hader
(“Saturday Night Live”) has his second summer of hosting “TCM
Essentials Jr.,” on cable. At 8 p.m. ET each Sunday, there's a movie that
families might watch together.

Such as? Well, parents probably won't
be surprised to see that the list includes “Lassie Come Home”
(July 1) or “Wizard of Oz” (it ran June 10). But they'll also
find Hitchcock, horror, action, adventure – and a black-and-white,
silent film.

That's Charlie Chaplin's 1928 “The
Circus,” this Sunday(June 24). “I think it's very funny,” Hader said.
“Visually, it's his best work.”

Others seem to agree. This is “not
the masterpiece of 'The Gold Rush' or 'City Lights,' but still a
gem,” Leonard Maltin wrote in his movie guide (Signet, 2010),
calling it a “hilarious comedy with memorable finale.” The AMC
Classic Movie Companion (Hyperion, 1999) calls it a “lavish
production, ... not only a big-top spectacular, but also a charming

Hader chose the film from a list given
to him by the Turner Classic Movies people. “We kind of go
back-and-forth a little,” he said. He OK'd a few films he hadn't
seen before (“The Circus” and both musicals) and insisted on “The
Bank Dick,” from one of his favorites. “I said, 'I'll have to see
some W.C. Fields there,'” he said.

Then there's the 1932 “Invisible
Man.” For Hader, that reflects fond memories of watching “The
Hunchback of Notre Dame” and other horror or sci-fi classics,
bracing for the good parts. “My mother would go, 'Uh oh, here it
comes!' I think her excitement in seeing it was what I liked the

Growing up in Tulsa, he was a horror
fan. That may explain his “SNL” impressions of Vincent Price, or
the eerie tone he gives to being Julian Assange of WikiLeaks or Keith
Morrison of “Dateline.”

He also liked comedy, which soon took
over. “A friend of mine was in Second City in Los Angeles,” Hader
said. He joined the troupe and was discovered quickly; just turned
34, he's heading into his eighth season of “SNL,” where he ranges
from the too-trendy Stefan to ancient newsman Herb Welch.

Indeed, he seems to fade into the
characters. “When we went to ComiCon in New York, I told a friend,
'Don't worry; no one will recognize me.'” For good or bad, he was

Here's the “Essentials Jr.”
line-up, at 8 p.m. Sundays:

– Already aired: “12 Angry Men,”
“The Wizard of Oz,” “Rio Bravo.”

– Comedies: “The Circus” (Charlie
Chaplin, 1928), June 24; “The Bank Dick” (W.C.Fields, 1940), July
8; “Ball of Fire” (Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, 1941), Aug.

– Doggy drama: “Lassie Come Home”
(1943), July 1.

– Musicals: “The Band Wagon”
(Fred Astaire, 1953), July 29; “42nd Street” (1933),
Aug. 12.

– Sci Fi/horror: “The Invisible Man
(1933), Aug. 5.

– Adventures: “The Thief of
Baghdad” (1940), July 15; “The Great Escape” (Steve McQueen,
1963), July 22; “North by Northwest” (Alfred Hitchcock directing
Cary Grant, 1959), Aug. 19.