Bigger than the Super Bowl! Glitzier than the Oscars! Huger than — gasp! — the American Idol finale! Yes, Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20 is shaping up to be the premier pop culture event of the year.
Naturally, Oprah Winfrey has decided to take her show to D.C. for the week, while HBO kicks things off Jan. 18 with We Are One (7 — 9 p.m.), a gala featuring Bono, Mary J. Blige, and Bruce Springsteen on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On Jan. 19, it’s the tweens’ turn: The Disney Channel serves up Kids’ Inaugural: We Are the Future (8 — 9:30 p.m.), with performances by Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and Demi Lovato.
On Inauguration Day, ABC, CBS, and NBC begin with special editions of their morning shows, which will all originate from D.C. At 10 a.m., the real action begins: The Big Three, as well as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, air the festivities live, including the swearing-in ceremonies, Pennsylvania Avenue parade, and performances by Aretha Franklin, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and violinist Itzhak Perlman.
That evening, the coverage switches to party mode. BET unspools Yes We Will! BET’s Inauguration Celebration (8 — 9 p.m.), with Nick Cannon hosting and Common performing. NBC’s Brian Williams headlines a one-hour special (10 — 11 p.m.) highlighting the galas, while CBS and Katie Couric present Change and Challenge: The Inauguration of Barack Obama (9 — 10 p.m.), which traces his road to the White House. And ABC’s The Neighborhood Ball: An Inaugural Celebration (8 — 10 p.m.) features the Obamas’ first dance and performances from Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Mariah Carey, among others.
Is this D.C. — or Hollywood? According to BET programming president Stephen Hill, this year the inauguration ”has become much more of a pop culture piece than a political piece. Part of it is Barack Obama himself; part of it is just that some things transcend entertainment and categories. If Kennedy had been born in the media age, this is exactly how it would have been.”