A guide to 4th of July TV

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 01, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Fair Park Fourth

• 9 p.m. Friday

• WFAA/Channel 8

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It’s one of Joe Trahan’s favorite gigs of the entire year.

The weekend sports anchor for WFAA/Channel 8 gets to gape at a night sky painted with fireworks along with the rest of the Cotton Bowl crowd during the station’s Fair Park Fourth telecast at 9 p.m. Friday.

“Please excuse the pun,” he says, “but it’s a blast to do this show.”

Trahan gets such a bang out of co-anchoring the event because he’s something of a fireworks junkie.

“Two of the best summers of my life as a young man were spent working as a pyrotechnician at AstroWorld in Houston when I was 18 and 19 years old,” he says. “My job every day was to blow things up.”

Trahan is quick to add that he’s hardly the expert that he once was. Mostly he just oohs and aahs with the rest of the crowd.

“In the old days, I could tell how big the shell was and what kind of fireworks it would put out just from the sound of the boom,” he boasts. “That must have been a five-inch shell. That was an eight-inch shell. I’m not that good anymore, but I still try to test myself.”

There are other specials airing Friday that celebrate Independence Day with mixtures of musical acts and aerial displays, but the Dallas-based show is the one to watch if you want Texas flavor.

This is the third year that Star-Telegram media partner Channel 8 will televise the event, which traditionally attracts tens of thousands to Fair Park.

Co-anchoring the show will be news anchor Ron Corning and meteorologist Colleen Coyle.

Channel 8’s one-hour broadcast, which includes both live and taped segments, will open with the Jazz Singers vocal ensemble from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, the same group that wowed the crowd this year during the Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. They’ll do a version of America the Beautiful.

Other musical acts include the Dallas Symphony Orchestra brass quintet, Texas country artist Tony Ramey with multi-instrumentalist Kevin Afflack and the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters.

Trahan also will recount the story of John Hootsell, a retired Marine corporal who survived injuries from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan two years ago.

“An organization called Operation Finally Home is building a home for him in Fort Worth,” Trahan says. “It’s a fantastic story about this young man, who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and almost did, and now the community is rallying around him to provide for him as a way of thanking him for his service to this country.

“It’s the kind of story that allows us to celebrate what makes our country great.”

Channel 8’s annual coverage of Big D NYE, the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Victory Park, has become such a programming success that it’s now syndicated to stations in other states around the Southwest. Could the Fair Park Fourth special become as big in the years to come?

“This is not at that magnitude yet, but it has that potential,” says Dave Muscari, executive producer of the Fair Park Fourth telecast. “It’s a great showcase for the city, for Fair Park, for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and for the Eisemann Center [in Richardson], where we shot the Sea Chanters.

“It’s a lot of work. There’s more to it logistically than just aiming a television camera up at the sky. It takes a lot of coordination with the city and with the Friends of Fair Park and with the Cotton Bowl to put this show together. But it’s worth it.”

Here’s a rundown of special Independence Day-themed programs, movies and marathons on the Fourth:

Bombs bursting in air

Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular showcases Manhattan’s 38th annual fireworks display, this year using the Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop. Hosted by Nick Cannon, with musical performances by Ariana Grande, Hunter Hayes, Miranda Lambert and Lionel Richie, the two-hour live show begins at 7 p.m. Friday on NBC (KXAS/Channel 5).

A Capitol Fourth from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol airs live at 7 p.m. Friday on PBS (KERA/Channel 13). In addition to the National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Jack Everly, the 90-minute special features performances by Frankie Valli, Patti LaBelle, Jordin Sparks, Michael McDonald, Sara Evans, Kendall Schmidt and Kelli O’Hara.

Proud to be an American moviegoer

Turner Classic Movies celebrates America’s birthday with a marathon of patriotic films. Give Me Liberty, an Oscar-winning short film from 1937, kicks things off at 5 a.m. Friday. The lineup also includes John Paul Jones (5:30 a.m.), The Howards of Virginia (8:15 a.m.), 1776 (12:30 p.m.), Yankee Doodle Dandy (3:15 p.m.), The Devil’s Disciple (5:30 p.m.) and Sergeant York (7 p.m.).

It’s Independence Day all day on Encore, which serves up the 1996 alien-invasion blockbuster starring Will Smith and Bill Pullman at 11 p.m. Thursday, then hits repeat it nine more times Friday. In case once isn’t enough when it comes to the destruction of New York and Washington, D.C.

Christmas in July

Hallmark Channel, which evidently wishes that Christmas were a year-round holiday, celebrates the Yuletide for 10 days in July. The “Christmas Keepsake” marathon begins with The Christmas Spirit at 1 p.m. Friday and continues until Sunday, July 13.

Some of the better Hallmark originals include Debbie Macomber’s Mrs. Miracle (1 p.m. Monday), Most Wonderful Time of the Year (5 p.m. Friday, July 11) and Angels Sing (7 p.m. Saturday, July 12). Hallmark Movie Channel, meantime, joins in with its “Gold Crown Christmas” marathon.

More marathons

AMC’s “Dead, White and Blue” weekend features a marathon of The Walking Dead and a Season 5 preview episode of The Talking Dead. The marathon begins with the series pilot at 8 a.m. Friday and lasts until 8 p.m. Sunday, when Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick takes over. He’ll be joined by executive producer Scott M. Gimple and actress Aisha Tyler. Season 5 of The Walking Dead premieres in October.

Here are two other incongruous science-fiction/Fourth combos: Syfy continues a two-decade tradition with a Twilight Zone marathon, and BBC America counters with one of its favorites, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Both begin at 7 a.m. Friday.

Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon begins at 8:35 a.m. Friday and ends with a 15-minute Season 6 preview at 1:45 p.m.

And still, there are other Friday marathons: History channel celebrates our country’s past with 12 hours of America the Story of US, beginning at 6 a.m., followed by a nine-hour American Pickers marathon at 6 p.m. … American Heroes Channel’s two-day marathon of The Revolutionary War begins at 3 p.m. Thursday. … USA’s 14-hour NCIS marathon begins at 5 a.m. … TV Land spends 12 hours in Mayberry, a classic American town, with The Andy Griffith Show, beginning at 8 a.m. … WE devotes the day to recapping a season of Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars at 9 a.m. … Destination America spends 10 hours at the grill with BBQ Pittmasters at 5 a.m. … Cooking Channel dishes up up 13 hours of Man Fire Food, beginning at 2 p.m. … Food Network serves 10 hours of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives at 5 p.m. … H2 goes out of this world with a 15-hour Ancient Aliens marathon at 7 a.m. … Travel Channel visits Food Paradise for 11 hours, beginning at 8 a.m.

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