Tube Talk: Shows to celebrate America

The Fourth of July is a time of picnics and parades, but sometimes hot or stormy weather spoils the outdoor fun, and come nightfall, not everyone wants to endure the crowds, mosquitoes and loud noise of the downtown fireworks. But that doesn’t mean they can’t celebrate the Fourth from the comfort—and quietness—of their own homes.

Here are a few holiday specials to keep in mind for anyone staying in on Independence Day:

The quintessential Fourth of July food for many is the hot dog. And hot dogs are the food of choice for many competitive eaters. So it’s no surprise ESPN is marking the day with 2007 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. It airs locally at 11 a.m., so try not to let it spoil your lunch.

As you might expect, The History Channel has a “revolutionary” schedule. At 7 a.m., they start the day with a two-hour biography, Ben Franklin, introducing viewers to the man behind the bespectacled, grandfatherly image we’re all familiar with. The 13-part series The Revolution kicks off at 9 a.m. and runs until 10 p.m. when the “Ben Franklin Tech” episode of Modern Marvels caps things off by focusing on many of Franklin’s memorable inventions.

Travel Channel spends the day—8 a.m.-7 p.m.—visiting our National Parks and other natural wonders. Some of the places viewers will be taken include Bryce Canyon, Grand Teton National Park, Alaska’s national parks, Yosemite, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Colorado River.

If you’re more in the mood for movies—war movies, in particular—tune in to AMC for a day filled will classics like the World War II films Bataan and Tora! Tora! Tora!, which air at 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., respectively, and George C. Scott’s Oscar-winning performance in Patton, at 10:30 a.m. You can also catch two Harrison Ford flicks: Force 10 From Navarone at 2 p.m. and Patriot Games at 7 p.m.

PBS continues its annual tradition with A Capitol Fourth (7-8:30 p.m. on both WTTW-Chicago and WHA-Madison), broadcast live from the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The National Symphony Orchestra will conclude its concert with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” (complete with live cannon fire courtesy of the U.S. Army), and the program will close with fireworks blazing above the Washington Monument.

WHA will follow A Capitol Fourth at 8:30 with Pyromania, a documentary on the making of fireworks—from their beginnings at a small factory in China to their detonation at the huge Fourth of July fireworks display in Washington, D.C. Perfect viewing for those of us who always wonder, “How do they make fireworks, and how can they tell what they’ll look like once they’re ignited?” Immediately afterward, at 9, WHA will show Ken Burns’ American Stories: The Statue of Liberty.

Frankly, I’m a bit jealous of the lucky ones who get TCM since can watch the classic musical, 1776 starting at 9 p.m.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

from the June 27-July 5, 2007, issue

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