By Amy Ryan
Updated July 12, 2005 at 12:00 PM EDT
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You can actually sue a TV channel for sucking — and win. That’s the lesson of today’s legal victory against AMC, in a breach of contract suit filed by Time Warner Cable (like EW.com, a division of Time Warner).

Like some viewers who remember when AMC stood for ”American Movie Classics,” the cable operator complained that AMC doesn’t show classic movies much anymore. (These days, the channel just goes by the abbreviation ”AMC,” as if to gloss over the word ”Classics,” much like KFC, which doesn’t want to remind anyone in our calorie-conscious era that the ”F” stands for ”Fried.”) A look at this month’s AMC schedule, which does include some genuine classics and rarities (like two John Wayne movies that haven’t been televised in 25 years), reveals that too much of AMC’s schedule is given over to decidedly non-classic films of the last two decades, like Death Warrant, Braddock: Missing in Action, and Jaws: The Revenge.

”We think we’re programming classics to all ages,” AMC executive Ed Carroll told the New York Times earlier this week. ”To my kids Home Alone and E.T. are classics, Risky Business is to me; to my dad, To Kill a Mockingbird.” Still, it’s clear that AMC is not playing on the same field as Turner Classic Movies, which airs movies from the 1930s to the ’60s, unedited and without commercials. That’s what AMC used to do, but when TCM came along a decade ago with its vast, exclusive movie library, AMC apparently decided it couldn’t compete and abandoned the field, resulting in the format change that prompted the lawsuit.

Still, the format change has boosted AMC’s ratings. Which makes me wonder: Is Carroll right? Is the definition of ”classic” really that elastic? What exactly makes a movie a classic?

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