TV aims to keep July 4 viewing as traditional as possible amid pandemic

  • Television will mark the Fourth of July with appropriately themed programming Saturday, July 4, including "A Capitol Fourth" on PBS.

    Television will mark the Fourth of July with appropriately themed programming Saturday, July 4, including "A Capitol Fourth" on PBS. Courtesy of PBS

  • TNT will air the 1998 drama "Saving Private Ryan" on Saturday, July 4.

    TNT will air the 1998 drama "Saving Private Ryan" on Saturday, July 4. Courtesy of DreamWorks

 
By Jay Bobbin
Gracenote
Posted6/30/2020 6:00 AM

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 the 40th-anniversary presentation of "A Capitol Fourth" at 7 p.m. Saturday. 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.

Musical acts will perform from Washington, as well as from other cities. Patti LaBelle, country stars Trace Adkins and Lauren Alaina, the Temptations, Tony Award winner Kelli O'Hara, opera great Renee Fleming and Yolanda Adams are slated to appear, and other artists also will be seen in revisited "A Capitol Fourth" footage.

NBC finds itself in a similar situation as it again stages its "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular" in New York. Tim McGraw 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. Still, spectators will be able to enjoy the colorful sights in the sky from wherever they are, be that on the streets of the city or at home watching TV.

As for other Independence Day fare, AMC offers -- 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 4, but TV will do its part to keep it as we've known it.

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