American popular culture went into kind of a lull at the end of the 1980s, as Hollywood movies, network television, and Top 40 radio all declined simultaneously. Or maybe it just seemed that way because all three of those mediums were clicking so well at the start of the decade. This Saturday night, TCM is paying homage to the comedies of 1982, highlighted by one of that year’s best films, Tootsie. In many ways a product of its time—from its slick, jazzy Dave Grusin score to its earnestly feminist message—Tootsie is also a prime example of what happens when high-powered actors, writers, and technicians are working at their peak. Dustin Hoffman stars as a struggling actor who masquerades as an actress to get a part on a soap opera; behind the scenes, Hoffman worked with M*A*S*H writer Larry Gelbart and director Sydney Pollack to tweak the material, with input from a cast that includes Teri Garr, Charles Durning, Dabney Coleman, and Bill Murray. Tootsie doesn’t seem as smart about gender relations as it once did—if anything, it seems to say that men make better women than women do—but it’s a lively, believable take on a New York actor’s self-absorbed life, with jokes that work because they were written by people who know the kind of arrogance it takes to make great art. Tootsie airs at 8 p.m. Eastern, followed immediately by two other classic 1982 comedies, My Favorite Year and Diner.
Or: Any opportunity to see one of the lesser-known films by master German expressionist F.W. Murnau is one that cineastes shouldn’t pass up, which is why even though your humble “pick of the day” correspondent has no firsthand experience of 1922’s Phantom—reportedly a nightmarish melodrama about a cash-strapped poet’s obsession with a woman who nearly runs him over with her horse-drawn carriage—it’s still going to be this weekend’s “Or.” Phantom will be airing on TCM Sunday at midnight Eastern, as part of the channel’s long-running “Silent Sunday Nights” series.