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EVENT: Titanic Is All Over TV
April 7, 2012  | By Diane Werts
 
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TV has scheduled a titanic number of shows about the RMS Titanic leading up to April 15's 100th anniversary of the legendary ship's sinking. Documentaries, miniseries dramas, new investigations, familiar encores -- anything Titanic-related is finding its way to the tube over the next week's culmination of commemoration.

Some shows have aired already, on channels as wide-ranging as Planet Green and WiMax. But there's plenty of fresh firepower coming up, especially this weekend and next.

Among the splashiest is the un-humbly named Titanic: The Final Word (Sunday, April 8 at 8-10 p.m. ET on NatGeo) from big-name underwater maven/movie director James Cameron. As if he hadn't gotten enough attention for last month's descent into the Challenger Deep of the Pacific's Mariana Trench, Cameron now avers to be solving the mystery behind the relatively quick sinking (less than 3 hours) of the White Star liner he memoralized in his 1997 big-screen blockbuster with Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Cameron admits in The Final Word he basically made that $200 million Titanic melodrama so he'd have an excuse to dive the wreck and otherwise obsess over it, as apparently he was already doing. NatGeo's two-hour special documents Cameron gathering a panel of experts to sit down and obsess some more, going point-by-point through the process by which the Titanic sideswiped that iceberg, took on water, broke apart and sank, as only a mere third of its passengers and crew escaped with their lives.

So, it's essentially a film of guys (all guys) sittin' around talkin' -- at length and in technical detail -- while cameras watch them do it. Sure, there's computer animation and clips from Cameron's Titanic, along with historical facts and archival info, but it's mostly one big Cameron-for-Cameron indulgence that, in the end, doesn't really "solve" anything much. And it unreels for two hours.

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If you've got those couple hours free, better to wait and watch Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved (Sunday, April 15, 8-10 p.m. ET on History). While its title is no more humble, its content is a lot more lively, as its own gathered team of experts assesses "the first ever complete map of the entire wreck site," as charted by underwater remote-operated vehicles. Half the fun is watching the robots do their thing, especially when their tethers get caught on parts of the wreck, threatening damage to both the ship and themselves. Of course this "mystery" is "solved" ahead of time -- they got the map, right? -- but it adds a little juice to what's essentially a computer operation leading to guys talkin' again.

History's Mystery Solved "virtually reassembles" the Titanic after mapping all its far-strewn wreck parts, which then also shows how the ship broke apart. It's sort of like a "CSI: Titanic" docudrama, told more in human-speak than Cameron's nerd-heaven convention.

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And then there's Bob Ballard's new Save the Titanic (Monday, April 9 at 10 p.m. ET, NatGeo), delivered at a blessedly compact one-hour length. He's the underwater archaeologist whose team "discovered" the wreck in 1985, turning this "ship of dreams" into a "commodity." Ballard watches big businesses develop around both auctioned artifacts from the ship and public tours to the wreck -- just $60,000 a visit -- and worries he has "opened Pandora's box."

So his Save title has a double meaning. While he wants to protect this underwater museum from being "loved to death," Ballard also wants to celebrate the efforts of 100 years ago to save the ship from this fate in the first place. His NatGeo hour tells the parallel story of the "guarantee group" of Belfast shipbuilders who made the initial sail to make sure Titanic performed up to snuff. Their story has been told before, but not quite so personally, as their long-reluctant descendants and the city of Belfast itself finally open up to embrace their legacy, and Ballard, who gets a look at the original ship plans and other previously unfilmed evidence.

Consider it a sign of the times, however, that this embrace is happening now: Belfast is opening a $200 million Titanic center, and reports like Ballard's serve as one whale, or perhaps one iceberg, of an advertisement.

Seems when it comes to Titanic, it always, but always, comes down to money.

-----

Titanic programs airing this week (all times ET)
(Program titles in ITALIC are dramas; others are documentary)

TItanic's Final Mystery (Smithsonian, Saturday, April 7 at 6 p.m. and 3 a.m.; Sunday, April 8 at 3 p.m.; April 11 at 9 a.m.; April 13 at 6 p.m. and 3 a.m.; April 14 at 4 p.m. and 2 a.m.; April 15 at 11 a.m., 8 p.m., 11 p.m.) - New: Producers of "The King's Speech" examine rare natural phenomena contributing to tragedy

Titanic: Ballard's Secret Mission (NatGeo, Saturday, April 7 at 7 p.m. and 2 a.m.) - Wreck discovery team leader recounts how the ship was found after seven decades in the deep

Titanic: The Final Word (NatGeo, Sunday, April 8 at 8 and 11 p.m.; Monday, April 9 at 8 p.m.; April 15 at 4 p.m.) - New: Movie director James Cameron convenes a panel of experts to discuss how the ship sank

Save the Titanic (NatGeo, Monday, April 9 at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.; April 15 at 6 p.m.) - New: Ballard goes to Belfast to explore 1912 crew efforts to keep the ship afloat, as well as the ship's enduring legacy 100 years later

The Real Story: Titanic (Smithsonian, Monday, April 9 at 10 a.m., 6 p.m., 3 a.m.; April 13 at 5 p.m.; April 15 at 4 a.m., 10 p.m., 1 a.m.) - Comparing James Cameron's 1997 movie to what seems to have actually happened

Titanic With Len Goodman (check PBS listings; New York's WNET on Tuesday, April 10 at 8 p.m.) - New: "Dancing With the Stars" judge, who was once a welder for shipbuilder Harland and Woolf, reports on the continuing impact on Titanic descendants

Saving the Titanic (check PBS listings; New York's WNET on Tuesday, April 10 at 9 p.m.) - New: Dramatization of ship's final moments from viewpoint of engineers below deck trying to prevent sinking

Last Mysteries of the Titanic (Science, Wednesday, April 11 at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.; April 13 at 5 a.m.) - Cameron's earlier underwater expeditions to the wreck

Titanic (ThrillerMAX, Thursday, April 12 at 3:50 a.m.) - Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb star in 1953 film about passengers on the doomed ship

Modern Marvels (H2, Thursday, April 12 at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.) - All-day marathon begins: "Titanic Tech" looks at the ship's technology breakthroughs

Lost Worlds (H2, April 12 at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.) - "Building the Titanic" revisits the ship's construction

TItanic's Tragic Sister (H2, April 12 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.) - Story of the Britannic's sinking in 1916 and rediscovery in 1976

Titanic's Achilles Heel (H2, April 12 at 8 p.m. and midnight; History, Aprili 15 at 11 a.m.) - Did the ship have a fatal design flaw?

Titanic's Final Moments: Missing Pieces (H2, April 12 at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.) - Discovery of pristine components spurs debate over how the ship broke apart

Titanic (ABC, April 14 at 8-11 p.m., April 15 at 9 p.m.) - New: Linus Roache stars in new miniseries scripted by the creator of "Downton Abbey," Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes ("Gosford Park")

Titanic Belfast: Birthplace of a Legend (check PBS listings; New York's WLIW April 14 at 9 p.m.) - New: How the city in Northern Ireland became a shipbuilding powerhouse

Nazi Titanic (H2, April 14 at 9 p.m. and midnight) - New: Hitler's Third Reich commissions a film about the 1912 disaster as World War II propaganda

A Night to Remember
(Turner Classic Movies, April 14 at 10 p.m.) - Acclaimed 1958 British film about the Titanic features Kenneth More, Honor Blackman

Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved (History, April 15 at 8 p.m. and midnight) - New: Underwater robots map the entire debris field to determine precisely how the ship broke apart and sank

Titanic marathon (NatGeo, April 15, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.) - Includes 5-hour Rebuilding Titanic, plus Secrets of the Titanic (click on links to watch programs online), and Cameron/Ballard encores

 
 
 
 
 
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