What TV shows you'll see on 9/11. Expect emotional documentaries with few commercials -- Ken Tucker tells how TV will respond to the anniversary of the terrorist attack
September 11th
Credit: World Trade Center: Alex Fuchs/AFP/Newscom


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What TV shows you’ll see on 9/11

It’s already clear that, when it comes to acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the terrorist mass murders that occurred on Sept. 11, television has opted primarily for one of the many services it provides — that of mass audience comforter. On that day and the days immediately preceding it, the major networks as well as numerous cable outlets will give over their prime-time schedule, and much of their daytime programming to Sept. 11 memorials. Here are some of the more notable ones:


— ABC will air ”Report From Ground Zero,” based on former firefighter Dennis Smith’s book of the same name, on Tuesday, Sept. 10 (9-11 p.m.). The show includes profiles of numerous rescue workers, many of whom Smith knew personally. The network will also preempt its prime-time schedule on the 11th with a series of news reports anchored by Peter Jennings.

— CBS is using its ”60 Minutes II” on Sept. 11 (8-9 p.m.) to showcase an exclusive interview with President Bush conducted by correspondent Scott Pelley, followed by a rebroadcast of the Emmy-nominated documentary ”9/11.” CBS says it will present at least 13 hours of live news coverage of Sept. 11 commemoration and analysis, a pattern that is likely to be mirrored by ABC and NBC.

— NBC will broadcast ”A Concert for America” on Sept. 11, anchored by Tom Brokaw from the Kennedy Center in Washington. (The concert will have been taped Sept. 9.) Performers scheduled to perform include Aretha Franklin, Placido Domingo, Al Green, Alan Jackson, Gloria Estefan, and Josh Groban. First Lady Barbara Bush, honorary chairman of the event, has said the concert is intended to ”allow us to use the arts to soothe our emotions as we remember those innocent lives that were tragically cut short.”

— PBS has Kevin Spacey narrating ”America Rebuilds,” a 90-minute documentary that follows the massive recovery effort at the disaster site in lower Manhattan. The network’s peerless ”Frontline” will present ”Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero,” which airs first on Sept. 3 and again on Sept. 11 (9-11 p.m.). During these two hours, a diverse range of people speak about the ways in which the horrors of that day affirmed, shook, or altered their faith; the show also does a remarkable job of considering the concept of ”evil” — a word used by so many people, including our President — with all the anger, fear, and complexity it deserves.


— A&E will cease regular programming and fade to black at 8:46 a.m. (this is presumably when the network estimates that the terrorism began), and will scroll the names of all verified Sept. 11 victims. A&E will resume regular programming approximately 100 minutes later.

— The History Channel will air ”The World Trade Center: Rise and Fall of an American Icon,” on Sept. 11 (9-11 p.m.). This documentary about the history of the buildings will debut Sept. 2.

— All of the Discovery group channels will air the documentaries ”Portraits of Grief” and ”Faces of 9/11.”

— Showtime’s ”Reflections From Ground Zero,” on Sept. 9 (8 p.m.), consists of short films made by New York University students and teachers.

— BBC America will offer morning and evening coverage of how the day is being remembered all around the world.

As for the late-night talk shows, at this point, all of them, from Leno to Letterman to Jon Stewart, have been asked by their networks to air fresh episodes on Sept. 11. Thus far, the only host who is said to be thinking of refraining from doing a show is Letterman, who, you may recall, was also the first talk host to return to the air after the attacks.

It should also be noted that, for most of the networks, Sept. 11 programming will air without commercials. Some shows will do without advertising altogether; others will feature discreet sponsor acknowledgments before and after a show.

What do you think TV should be airing on Sept. 11?

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