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AMC, TCM Take Varied Paths to Peabody Pinnacle

Backstage at the Peabody Awards for electronic media excellence last Monday, The Wire enjoyed this juxtaposition.

First came the sexy cast of AMC's Breaking Bad. They posed before the phalanx of photographers upstairs at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, then walked the media rope line, chatting with reporters about their honored drama.

The show centers on a terminally ill high-school science teacher, played by Emmy Award-winner Bryan Cranston, who starts making and hustling crystal meth to provide for his pregnant wife and disabled son after he's gone. (Cranston wasn't there: making a movie in Prague.) It was cited for its "curious, contradiction-laden narrative."

A little while later, more quietly, in came Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne, clutching the statuette, with senior vice president of programming Charles Tabesh at his side. The channel was cited for its "continuing, powerful commitment to a central concept - the place of film in social and cultural experience."

AMC started out as an ad-free classic-movies channel, like TCM. AMC began taking ads then branched into non-movie-oriented original fare, like the razor-sharp Mad Men (last year's Peabody winner) and Breaking Bad.

TCM, at age 15, is still ad-free, with original content about ... classic movies.

"I hope it stays that way," Osborne said. "Life is change, you never know what's going to happen. But what makes our channel so great is the fact that we can show movies and present them they way they were meant to be seen. Movies were always made with a rhythm - like a Hitchcock film, that suspense. It really ruins it if you have breaks in the movies."

Tabesh said TCM execs are proud it's remained license-fee-supported. Many networks have added commercials- "and done great things when they change. AMC is one example, they've done great things in winning the Peabody today," he said. "But it's been really special for us to just be consistent."

Added Osborne: "It's nice to at least have one channel like that in our lives. An oasis."

Tabesh then pointed out that TCM shows silent films, too, something you can't really do if you're trying to reach an ad-buyer's target demographic.

The Wire isn't completely sure if the last argument is a good one or whether Tabesh just broke bad.