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On 9/11, What to Watch to Observe -- or Avoid -- TV's 10th Anniversary Coverage
September 10, 2011  | By David Bianculli

Television offers significant 10th-anniversary 9/11 coverage in both the morning and evening hours on Sunday. Morning events, live, are keyed to the moments 10 years ago when terrorists, and tragedy, struck in three locations across the country. There are evening events, too -- some live, others taped and filmed. And for those who seek fictional, entertaining alternatives to 9/11, TV hasn't forgotten about you, either. The best of both worlds Sunday? Here's where to look...


Live coverage of 9/11 memorial ceremonies -- from the National 9/11 Memorial site at Ground Zero in New York (above), as well as from the Washington, DC and Shanksville, PA -- are ubiquitous on TV Sunday morning. The key moments of observance, a decade later, include:

8:46 a.m. ET -- American Airlines Flight 11, hijacked by terrorists, crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

9:03 a.m. ET -- United Airlines Flight 175, hijacked by terrorists, crashes into the South Tower.

9:37 a.m. ET -- American Airlines Flight 77, hijacked by terrorists, crashes into the Pentagon.

9:59 a.m. ET -- The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.

10:03 a.m. ET -- United Airlines Flight 93, hijacked by terrorists who eventually are thwarted by passengers and crew members who struggle to regain control of the plane, crashes in Somerset County, PA.

10:28 a.m. ET -- The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.

CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox all provide live coverage -- Fox beginning at 7 a.m. ET, the others at 8 a.m.


If you want to watch one of the major broadcast networks for this part of the coverage, I'd recommend ABC. A decade ago, its live coverage, anchored by then-Good Morning America hosts Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer, was the most impressive by a broadcast network. It's coincidental, but not surprising, that both Gibson and Sawyer, in that order, ended up anchoring ABC's flagship newscast.

On cable, Fox News is the first out of the block, with a special 9/11-themed Fox and Friends Sunday edition starting, as usual, at 6 a.m. ET. At 8 a.m. ET, the other news networks join in: CNN, CNBC and MSNBC all offer their own versions of live coverage and commentary.

If you want the purest record of the uninterrupted memorial ceremonies, however, I highly recommend the 9/11 Ceremony Coverage on C-SPAN, beginning at 8 a.m. ET. No frills -- but no interruptions or distractions, either.

And the C-SPAN organization is impressively, blessedly thorough in its coverage. At the same time coverage from Ground Zero is presented on the parent C-SPAN network, coverage of the memorial service from the Pentagon is shown on C-SPAN2. And beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET, C-SPAN3 presents live coverage of the memorial service from Shanksville, PA.


C-SPAN is a smart option in the evening as well: Beginning at 8 p.m. ET, it offers live coverage, from Washington, DC, of A Concert for Hope, the Kennedy Center memorial event at which President Barack Obama will speak, and Patti LaBelle and Alan Jackson, among others, will sing. Several ABC affiliates also will carry the concert live, so check your local listings.

Memorial concert coverage also appears on PBS at 8 p.m. ET (check local listings), but on public TV it's a double-header. At 9:30 p.m. ET, Great Performances presents A Concert for New York, a day-after telecast of Saturday's free Lincoln Center performance by the New York Philharmonic. Alan Gilbert conducts the orchestra in the fittingly chosen selection of Mahler's Resurrection (Symphony No. 2). Tom Brokaw hosts.


And if it's music you want, the biggest event -- or at least the longest -- is VH1's six-hour repeat telecast of the 2001 Concert for New York, organized by Paul McCartney (and featured, in part, in Saturday's new The Love We Make special on Showtime, 9 p.m. ET).

A decade later, VH1 is repeating the entire concert without commercial interruption, which means six solid hours of McCartney, Elton John, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, James Taylor and so, so many more. The replay begins at 4 p.m. ET, and runs until 10.

Prime-time documentaries and news events tied to 9/11 include a Fox News special, at 8 p.m. ET, called Fox News Reporting: 9/11: Timeline of Terror, and a CBS 60 Minutes edition (7 p.m. ET) full of 9/11-related material. Showtime has Rebirth (9 p.m. ET), an effectively emotional documentary about people whose lives were changed, or loved ones lost, on 9/11. And The History Channel presents a timely documentary on Making the 9/11 Memorial (9 p.m. ET).


The one prime-time documentary with the most cache and advance interest, though, is CBS's 9/11: 10 Years Later (8 p.m. ET), an update of the most memorable 9/11 documentary from a decade ago. The Naudet brothers, Jules and Gideon, provide an update of their ground-level Ground Zero study from 2001. If you're taping one nonfiction special Sunday, this should be it.


Entertainment alternatives having nothing to do with 9/11?

The best of these include NBC's Sunday Night Football, where the New York Jets host the Dallas Cowboys (8:15 p.m. ET). But since it takes place in New York, and features "America's team" vs. a New York home team, expect lots of New York and America-loving and 9/11 references and tributes throughout.

TCM offers a great distraction with an 8 p.m. ET showing of 1942's classic Casablanca. Watch it again, Sam.

And at 10 p.m. ET, AMC presents a fresh episode of Breaking Bad, one of TV's most riveting shows.

But overall, when it comes to scripted entertainment, HBO steals the spotlight tonight, with a juicy trifecta of story-concluding episodes.


True Blood (9 p.m. ET) presents its season finale, a sort of Wiccan vs. Fairy throwdown that sounds like way too much fun to miss.

That's followed by the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with Larry David still in New York, and this time squaring off against Michael J. Fox.

And finally, there's the finale -- of Entourage, which presents its very last episode, concluding a run that began in 2004, and ending with Ari (Jeremy Piven) and his wife taking one last stab at couples therapy.

One way or another on Sunday, TV is providing the opportunity to embrace and confront your emotions.




Eileen said:

I second that emotion on the documentary 9/ll: 10 Years Later. Their original in 2002 was just a beautiful, amazing, heartbreaking piece of work. It's made all the more special because their intent that day was simply to follow a firehouse as the members went about their day-to-day routine, and they planned to focus on breaking in a new rookie at the house. They captured historical footage and reactions that are just beyond the pale. It truly is must see tv, and I'm so pleased at your high recommendation.

I happened to pass by my old stomping grounds, St. Vincent's Hospital, on my way back from a doctor's visit the other afternoon. I was intrigued as to why there was a new, large sign affixed to the doors of the former ambulance bays. I had to see what it said, and I'm glad I did.

"We may be gone, but we'll never forget 9/11"
(Signed) The St. Vincent's Family


[Thanks for your remarks, Eileen. Incisive and memorable as always. Please report back with what you DO watch on 9/11, and how you react -- and the same invitation goes to all our other TVWW readers. However you spend the day, be well, and be safe. - DB]

Comment posted on September 10, 2011 2:31 PM

Mac said:

David, PBS' POV commissioned the Rauch Bros. to animate a few 9/11 stories. They are available now at storycorps.org and, as usual, keep the kleenex handy. They claim they have a goal for an audio about every life lost on 9/11.

[Thanks for the tip. And yes, like so much of the stuff I've seen thus far, expect to be hit emotionally. But that's the point, right? -- DB]

Comment posted on September 11, 2011 3:12 PM

Eileen said:

Reporting in...

9/11: 10 Years Later certainly didn't disappoint. Watching it just reaffirmed why the FDNY are called New York's Bravest. The interviews with the firehouse members were touching, inspiring and heartbreaking. That these men should face danger every time they woke, only to lose members to illness beyond their control was upsetting at best. This should serve as a real wake-up call to our representatives that those working at Ground Zero must have medical coverage. It's a small price to pay for what they gave.

As an aside, Jules Naudet was married in the firehouse on June 1, 2002. How fitting...

Saturday I watched Flight 93, which I'd seen before but wanted to revisit. Somehow in the shadow of the WTC, these folks don't seem to get the respect they're due. The phone calls to their loved ones, knowing they are going to die, leaves you speechless. Their last ditch effort to storm the cockpit speaks volumes about the decency, integrity and goodness of these men and women.

But the image that will never leave my mind is Paul Simon, NY hometown boy, singing "The Sound of Silence"; if there is a more apropos song for this ceremony it hasn't been written yet.

[I agree completely. And yes, Simon's intimate musical solo was truly touching. So was James Taylor's "Close Your Eyes," and Emi Ferguson's "Amazing Grace" on flute. All three got to me. And by the way... I hated how CNN, very early into the memorial, talked about the power of the names of the dead being read aloud -- while speaking over those names so we couldn't hear them. Other networks had a better idea. NBC, for example, ran the entire reading without one verbal interruption, and superimposed, for each name, a photo, the correct spelling of the name, the person's age at time of death, and place of residence. Classy. -- DB]

Comment posted on September 12, 2011 11:28 AM
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