What NOT to watch on July 4 -- EW TV critic Ken Tucker explains why you should turn OFF the tube on this special holiday and celebrate in other ways
Nigella Lawson, Nigella Bites
Credit: Nigela Bites: E!

What NOT to watch on July 4

Given my job description, I’m usually here to guide you toward television, but this time out, I want to urge you turn it off on one particular day: the Fourth of July.

There are, as always, a slew of shows celebrating Independence Day. ”The West Wing”’s Rob Lowe is scheduled to host ”Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular” on NBC, with music ranging from Enrique Iglesias to James Taylor. PBS is broadcasting ”Capitol Fourth,” with fireworks, Aretha Franklin, Lee Ann Womack, and a few opera singers, all on the West Lawn of Washington D.C.’s Capitol Building.

TNN is showing the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme movie ”Kickboxer” — oh, I guess that’s not supposed to be holiday-themed, but somehow, the Turner Classic Movies channel’s airing of ”The Wizard of Oz” is supposed to be, perhaps because they’ve added something that makes it a more democratic experience: This is ”The Wizard of Oz Sing-A-Long.” Yes, they’ve added onscreen lyrics and a bouncing ball to help you vocalize with Judy Garland, Bert Lahr, and company. What an absolutely terrible idea.

My daughter points out that the Style Network is running a marathon of her new favorite show, ”Nigella Bites,” and it is tempting to give in to Nigella Lawson’s soothing British accent and useful, easy-to-make recipes.

But in fact, the whole notion of watching TV on the Fourth of July is — well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say unpatriotic, but at the very least it’s off-putting. (And I say that with no disrespect to Aretha Franklin.) This should be a time when we appreciate the country by talking about it amongst ourselves, engaging, perhaps, in some spirited debate, or just going outside somewhere and looking at a real-life fireworks display, with other citizens all around us.

Unlike Thanksgiving or Christmas, which are traditionally family affairs, held indoors, and often likely to provoke as much anxiety as pleasure (that’s why all those TV showings of ”It’s A Wonderful Life” are necessary — to remind us that life can be wonderful), Independence Day is the most pleasurable and public of national holidays, ideally experienced on a hot day, not squandered in isolation, in front of the cool medium of TV.

So give TV a rest for a day. Thank your lucky stars we’re all here. On Friday, we can go back to rolling channels. And that’s when we can thank goodness we live in a country where ”Big Brother” is being given a third season on CBS. But not until July 10.

How will you celebrate your independence?