TV keeps July 4th as traditional as possible

PBS, NBC are among networks upholding holiday traditions

Television will mark the Fourth of July with appropriately themed programming Saturday, including “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS (check local listings).

Sometimes, birthdays are celebrated under unusual circumstances … and so it is for America this year.

The coronavirus pandemic is necessitating changes to various summer traditions, including ways in which the country typically marks the Fourth of July. Those include certain celebrations that not only draw big crowds to the actual sites under normal conditions, but also make for annual television events. The latter will remain the case on Saturday, July 4, but the given shows won’t be staged exactly as usual.

PBS’ May broadcast of the National Memorial Day Concert gave an idea of what to expect from “A Capitol Fourth” (check local listings), which is marking its 40th-anniversary presentation. Clips from past years’ editions might have been part of the special anyway … but they’ll now form a major portion of the show, as they did with the Memorial Day program from the same producers.

John Stamos returns as host for the fourth time, joined by singer-actress Vanessa Williams, but not from the special’s traditional location of Washington, D.C. (as with Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise having been in California to preside over the recent Memorial Day special).

John Stamos returns as a host of “A Capitol Fourth” Saturday on PBS (check local listings).

However, at least some of the musical acts will perform from Washington, as well as from other cities. Patti LaBelle, country stars Trace Adkins and Lauren Alaina, John Fogerty, the Temptations, Tony Award winners Kelli O’Hara and Brian Stokes Mitchell, opera great Renee Fleming, “This Is Us” regular Chrissy Metz and gospel staple Yolanda Adams are slated to appear.

NBC finds itself in a similar situation as it again stages its “Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular” in New York, with “Today’s” Craig Melvin and Dylan Dreyer hosting. Tim McGraw, John Legend, Brad Paisley, Black Eyed Peas and Lady A (formerly known as Lady Antebellum) are scheduled to entertain, but any audience directly in front of them is likely to be smaller than usual, due to social-distancing advisories that never were in place before when it came time for the show. Still, viewers will be able to enjoy many colorful sights in the sky, thanks also to taped highlights of related displays conducted in New York’s boroughs earlier in the week.

CNN offers “The 4th in America,” expectedly adding a current-news bent as Don Lemon hosts in New York and Dana Bash co-anchors from Washington, D.C. Entertainment content also will be substantial, though, with a roster that boasts Barry Manilow, Jewel, Kenny Loggins, Martina McBride, Jewel, The O’Jays, Don McLean, CeCe Winans, Pat Benatar and husband Neil Giraldo, and the cast of the Bob Dylan-inspired musical “Girl From the North Country” (including Emmy-winning actress Mare Winningham).

As for other Independence Day fare, AMC presents — appropriately — the 1996 sci-fi movie hit “Independence Day,” and FXM has the 2016 sequel “Independence Day: Resurgence.” TNT goes heavily for military-themed films including the 1998 drama “Saving Private Ryan,” while Turner Classic Movies salutes pure Americana with such features as 1962’s “The Music Man” and two TCM staples of the holiday, the 1972 musical “1776” and James Cagney in the 1942 George M. Cohan biography “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

It may not be the regular sort of July 4th, then, but TV will do its part to keep it as we’ve known it.


Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

jbobbin has 2357 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

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