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September 13, 2007

What to Watch: Tonight on Cable

Seth Arenstein recommentds Street Games on SNY and TCM's Norman Jewison tribute and mini-marathon.

Tube Stake: Programming Reviews by Seth Arenstein

STARSTRUCK: TCM tips its director's cap to Norman Jewison.

STARSTRUCK: TCM tips its director's cap to Norman Jewison.

• THURSDAY, SEPT. 13

Private Screenings: Norman Jewison, 8pm, Turner Classic Movies.

Sorry. There’s absolutely no chance that director Norman Jewison (Moonstruck, Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler on the Roof, In the Heat of the Night and many more) is 81 years old.

He looks about 20 years younger than that and his memory for details is terrific. Even better, he’s a master raconteur and needs very little prompting from TCM host Robert Osborne to launch into colorful stories about folks he’s worked with, people like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland and Doris Day. 

Tonight’s episode is the first time Private Screenings has been done before an audience, although you wouldn’t know it. And TCM couldn’t have found a better guest to start what hopefully will be a tradition.

Jewison has the crowd at the Sarasota Film Festival in his back pocket not longer than about 20 seconds in, telling about his early years when he thought, because of his surname, that he was Jewish (he’s not). And Osborne lays back beautifully, interjecting useful comments—needless to say the man knows his stuff—but allowing the night to be about the Canadian-born director whose films have received 46 Oscar nominations and a dozen Academy Awards.  

Oh, and the films. TCM begins its Jewison retrospective at 9pm with Moonstruck, segues into The Cincinnati Kid at midnight, followed by The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming at 1:45am and Gaily, Gaily at 4am.

Street Games, 10pm ET, SportsNet NY.

A good example of how far a young regional sports network can progress in very little time is offered tonight at 10pm on SNY, the joint venture of Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Sterling Entertainment Enterprises, owners of the NY Mets baseball team. It’s also an example of knowing your market and demanding that serving the fan be a foundation of the business.

Tonight’s show, SNY’s first original series, is solid work, highlighting through vignettes a series of NY City street sports, ranging from handball, roller hockey and arm-wrestling to even more esoteric activities like cricket and the French game of pétanque (Wall Street Journal subscribers can check out this story on that sport's reigning champion, Bruno Le Boursicaud).

This is sports at its purest—amateur competition with little or no money changing hands, but plenty of passion. Yet money isn’t absent completely. Participants in tonight’s episode on stickball and a bicycle messenger race came from far outside the five boroughs.

Opening the show, we find an interesting piece on a stickball tournament in the Bronx, which includes teams from San Diego and Puerto Rico. While there are some interesting characters here, the most noteworthy aspect of the piece is that it was done at all. 

The Bronx, as any baseball fan knows, is the home of the Yankees, the bitter cross-town rival of the Mets, the team that is SNY’s bread and butter. Surely there must have been other sports this series could have used for its lead story. If it had to be stickball, there must have been places other than in the Yankees’ back porch to show young men using broom handles and rubber balls, where you get only one strike instead of baseball’s three. And there are plenty of Yankees mentions, to say nothing of more than a few people sporting Yankees’ caps. Still SNY felt the passion of these amateur athletes was best shown with this tournament in the Bronx. They were right. 







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