Courtesy John Nowak/TCM
There I was, sitting in the same cohosting seat that's been occupied by the likes of Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore and Cher, and I'd been chugging right along, spouting absolutely fascinating trivia about the movies I'd chosen to screen that night: Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound; Steve Martin's Pennies From Heaven; the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet; and Roberto Rossellini's World War II classic Rome, Open City.
And Osborne couldn't have been nicer. Despite the bank of huge TV cameras that pressed in on us at the show's Manhattan studio and the crew of technicians bustling around, he made me feel absolutely like I was sitting in his own living room, chatting privately about our favorite movies.
And then Osborne pulled a real "gotcha!" on me. Boy, oh boy, what a zinger he had up his sleeve.
"So," he asked, "what are some recent movies that you like?"
I stared back at him, smiling stupidly, as if he had just asked me to recite the Periodic Table of the Elements backward. Sure, I review movies all year at AARP.org. Of course I've helped direct the selection of AARP The Magazine's annual Movies for Grownups Awards since 2002. And yeah, I've hosted the nationwide Movies for Grownups radio show every week for nearly a decade.
Why, I ask you, would any of that mean I could, right off the top of my head, name even one movie I'd seen in the past four months?
TV people call this "going up." At that moment I could have told Robert the name of the actor who played the Monster in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Glenn Strange) and the identity of the musician who played the zither in The Third Man (Anton Karas). But the names of great recent films like Argo, or Lincoln, or The Sessions were at that moment as foreign to me as Cantonese.
Ever the pro, Robert smiled back at me, his eyes darting about just a bit.
"You know," I stammered, "I have a list of movies over there in my briefcase. I wonder if I could take a look?"
The tape stopped, a staffer fetched my valise, and I fished in there for my cheat sheet of recent movies. Stashing it all behind my chair, I nodded to Robert.
"So," he said without a hint of irony, "what are some recent movies that you like?"
I leaned back, gestured grandly and rattled off a quite-impressive list.
What I deserve is for them to show my first, deer-in-the-headlights take on May 15. But I'm guessing they'll go with the latter. And that is the magic of television.
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