It’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Solemnity, reverence, a sense of quiet dignity would seem appropriate, unless, of course, you happen to be in charge of TV programming. Then it’s all hands on deck, sound the warning, flash the headlines.
9/11 programming is about to swamp your TV with an all-out ratings blitz. By the time this article goes to print, major networks will be rolling out no fewer than 68 different 9/11-related programs — everything from cable movies to concerts to specials on ironworkers rebuilding the World Trade Center. Forget the quiet dignity part, 9/11 is about to become every station’s major talking point.
While the big-four networks will be airing an abundance of generic specials, cable seems to be where the action is. For instance, National Geographic is airing four new programs plus lots of repeats from previous broadcasts. PBS’s Frontline and NewsHour will show seven.
On the drama side, FX’s Rescue Me is using 9/11 themes for its last two episodes and USA is airing a movie special.
And that’s just the warm-up. Other networks broadcasting 9/11 anniversary specials include Discovery, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, TLC, Bio, TCM, Smithsonian, A&E, the Military Channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network and, of course, Animal Planet.
What you watch will depend on your willingness to relive the event. It’s guaranteed that networks will serve up hours of live video and actual voices from inside the towers as a surefire hook. While some of this is expected, you can bet, given the amount of footage and audio tape available, the agony of that day will seem everlasting.
How, then, to watch and learn and perhaps survive another day? Here are a few things to consider, and a few that might make you scratch your head.
First, the head scratchers
Pets and 9/11? As a pet owner, Animal Planet has an automatic in with me. For this reason, if you love dogs, Saved will probably tug at your heart strings. Two families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center find their salvation through a Dalmatian named Blaze and a Yorkie named Scout. It’s just too bad that dogs get all the glory. What about cats?
And how about Access Hollywood airing special interviews with celebrities as they reflect on their personal 9/11 experiences? Can they do this and still smile? Yes, they have good plastic surgeons.
The real reach? CNBC airing American Greed: 9/11 Fraud. Yes, when I’m in need of solemnity and meditation, there’s nothing like watching scumbags take advantage of 9/11 victims to chill me out.
So how about the good stuff?
Here are a few that might pique your interest:
How about National Geographic’s George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview? He hasn’t had much to say about this over the last decade. Here he is (finally) sharing his experience. Wouldn’t we all like to know why he sat for 10 minutes post-catastrophe reading a children’s book?
Of course, 9/11 launched a decade of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. One of the more interesting political commentary shows on cable is MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, which will air Day of Destruction, Decade of War. Love her or hate her, she’s intelligent and seems willing to dig where others fear to tread.
For children trying to understand 9/11, there’s Nickelodeon’s Nick News special What Happened?: The Story of September 11, 2011. Linda Ellerbee is a legend in TV broadcasting. If anyone can explain 9/11 to children, she can.
And finally, remember all those music moments that helped us get through our sorrow? Consider Showtime’s The Love We Make starring Paul McCartney, whose post-9/11 concert in New York helped channel our grief and lift our spirits. (See the story in this issue of VCReporter, page 20.)
Check your local listings because most of these shows will have multiple airings. A few debuted last week, but you can always go online and check for rebroadcasts, save them to your DVR, or watch them On Demand.