It’s the time of year when TV fans are looking forward to a new fall television season, but before that can happen, there’s something more serious that we’ll all have to get through first: 9/11.
It’s the 10th anniversary of the terrorist sneak attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and TV will be commemorating the event as never before (or at least since the fifth anniversary in 2006).
Appropriately, the lion’s share of special commemorative programming will be seen on the actual date — Sept. 11, 2011 — a Sunday. Expect live coverage on all the broadcast networks and cable news channels of all the various memorial events — from the World Trade Center site in New York to the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa. Also expect some of the coverage — at least on CBS and Fox broadcast stations — to give way to football by the time the afternoon rolls around. After all, life goes on.
But even before that day, TV is planning a host of specials. In fact, two have already premiered — “George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview” was seen Aug. 28 on National Geographic Channel, and the first half of Discovery’s very worthwhile “Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero,” from executive producer Steven Spielberg, premiered on Thursday, Aug. 25, with Part Two set for Thursday, Sept. 1, 8-11 p.m./7-10c.
In fact, those two specials neatly represent the two categories of 9/11 programs on tap in these days leading up to the anniversary: Shows such as the George Bush interview that look back to that fateful day; and ones like “Rising” that are firmly rooted in the present and future.
There are literally dozens of 9/11 shows from which to choose this week and next — a number of them repeats from commemorations past, and a number of them newly produced. Among the channels planning multiple programs are NatGeo, History, TLC, and the cable news channels — Fox, MSNBC and CNN.
We recommend clicking on the links to the various Web sites above for more information on what those networks are planning. But never fear — we have a few recommendations of our own for 9/11 programs that stand out from the rest. Check ‘em out here:
“Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: What Happened? The Story of 9/11,” Thursday, Sept. 1, at 9/8c on Nickelodeon: We like bringing this one to your attention because it’s virtually the only one tailored specifically for kids, and Ellerbee has long been adept in the handling of sensitive “real world” topics for young Nick audiences.
“Nova: Engineering Ground Zero,” Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 9/8c on PBS: Nine years ago, “Nova” produced the best of all the 9/11-related docs, an episode titled “Why the Towers Fell,” which explained in fascinating detail how the airliners were able to cause the collapse of the Twin Towers. We expect this new “Nova,” about the rebuilding process at the World Trade Center site, to be just as definitive.
“The Love We Make,” Saturday, Sept. 10, at 9/8c on Showtime: This is the newly produced documentary — from renowned documentarian Albert Maysles (“Gimme Shelter,” “Grey Gardens”) about Paul McCartney, and how he became stranded in New York on 9/11 and then threw himself into the planning of a 9/11 benefit concert.
“The Space Between,” Sunday, Sept. 11, at 9/8c on USA Network: It’s not another documentary but a scripted movie starring Melissa Leo as a flight attendant on 9/11 who finds herself responsible for a Muslim boy who was traveling alone on her flight and then was grounded with her when air travel was halted. We think a new, sensitive scripted movie is as fine a way as any to mark the 9/11 anniversary.
“Making the 9/11 Memorial,” Sunday, Sept. 11, at 8/7c on History Channel: A few of the 9/11 docs take a look at the rebuilding process, and this one focuses chiefly on the ambitious memorial being built at the World Trade Center site with its deep pits and man-made waterfalls. This site is sure to become a major draw for New York City visitors in the years to come.