Most people go to the beach, or a bar-b-que, or engage in some sort of healthy, fresh airy, outdoorsy activity on July 4. Well, call your loved ones (if you have any) and scrap those plans, because there’s way to much good stuff on TV on Independence Day to leave the comfort of your couch.
National holidays have become a great excuse for broadcast and cable TV networks to feed the binge-watching beast that is now the American viewing public. And this July 4 is no different, with all sorts of marathons competing for your ocular attention on our nation’s 238th birthday (but we don’t look a day over 229).
For fans of contemporary TV, AMC brings you The Walking Dead: Dead, White and Blue weekend, with every episode of the series beginning Friday at 9 a.m. (ET) and continuing through Sunday night. Pivot airs Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) all day until midnight. USA Network has 14 installments of NCIS until 8 pm. E! airs ten installments of Sex and the City starting at 2 p.m. Centric has nine episodes of CSI:NY until 6 p.m. Sundance airs eight hours of Law & Order (1990-2010) starting at 4 p.m. And the INSP Channel (which I think used to be religious, and maybe still is) counters with 18 episodes of the not-particularly-religious JAG (1995-2005, CBS) beginning at 8 a.m. on Friday and continuing until 2 a.m Saturday. And yes, I consider series that debuted in the 1990s “contemporary.”
Warner Bros. announced this week that Batman, the beloved 1966-68 ABC-TV series starring Adam West as the Caped Crusader, will make its long-awaited debut on DVD and Blu-ray in November. The IFC Channel capitalizes on the breathless fanboy press the series has gotten in the last few days with a marathon of the first 22 episodes beginning at 6 a.m. (ET) Another block airs Saturday from 8:30-11 a.m. and Sunday from 9:30 am until 1 p.m. Beginning Monday, the series joins the IFC schedule with four daily airings, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. There is no home video release that I have been, or ever will be, this excited for. And catching a few episodes on IFC today will only whet my appetite.
Classic TV fans will have some tough choices to make today as SyFy sends you to The Twilight Zone with a 32-episode marathon. The day begins at 8 a.m. (ET) with the Five Characters in Search of an Exit, a season 3 episode starring William Windom. Other highlights include Time Enough at Last with Burgess Meredith (and his glasses) at 5 p.m. and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet with William Shatner (and a fuzzy guy on the airplane wing) at 7:30 p.m. Note: SyFy interrupts the marathon from 8 p.m. to midnight for WWE Smackdown and Spartacus: Blood and Sand. (I’m not recommended either of those, but if dudes in tights are your thing, have at it.)
Also on the classic tip, TV Land counters with 21 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show beginning at 9:o0 a.m. (ET). Interesting point: TV Land is airing the first nine shows in 36-minute timeslots, which may mean that they’re un-edited. As we’ve discussed before, any classic series airing on a commercial TV network (broadcast or cable) is likely edited to a degree that will incense longtime fans, in order to squeeze in more ads. The rest of the shows are airing in standard, 30-minute slots, so I assume they’re edited. (I’ll update this if I learn otherwise).
Update: 7/4/14 3:30 p.m. - TV Land is editing The Andy Griffith Show, even in the extended time slots. Boo TV Land.
If you’re a classic Western fan, the COZI-TV digital sub-channel dusts off the Hopalong Cassidy TV series (1952-54) with William Boyd and 11 of his feature films from the 1930s and ’40s for the Hopalong All Day Long-athon, with a full day of programming beginning at 7 a.m. If you’ve never seen Hopalong Cassidy, it’s interesting stuff, of the B-grade variety. There was no bigger phenomenon for kids in the early 1950s than Hoppy, and the mania even extended to a theme park in Los Angeles. (Note: some COZI affiliates, including the New York station, will pre-empt portions of the marathon for local programming.)
Also: Ovation airs all six-plus hours of the 1982 TV mini-series The Blue and the Gray beginning at 10 a.m. Set during the Civil War, the 3-chapter film stars Gregory Peck as Abe Lincoln, with countless other recognizable faces, including Robert Vaughn, Lloyd Bridges, and Warren Oates.
TV One is keeping the 4th dy-no-mite with six hours of Good Times (1974-1979) from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. And BBC America airs 22 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94), even though the British probably shouldn’t be celebrating anything today.
If you’re feeling filmic on the 4th, TCM has an entire day of historical dramas, comedies and musicals beginning with the two-reel short GIVE ME LIBERTY (1936) at 6 a.m. Highlights of the day include the film adaptation of the musical 1776 (1972) at 1:30 p.m., James Cagney in Michael Curtiz’s YANKEE DOODLE DANDY at 4:15 p.m., and William A. Wellman’s epic war drama WINGS (1927) at 2:15 a.m. The primetime schedule kicks off the Friday Night Spotlight on the 100th anniversary of World War I, with four weeks of films hosted by General Wesley Clark.
If your tastes run a bit redder (as in the color of the states), the getTV digi-net will air two films on Friday night featuring actress Nancy Davis, better known today at Nancy Reagan – and one of them co-star her famous husband. The military potboiler HELLCATS OF THE NAVY (1957) with Ronald Reagan airs at 7PM (ET) and CRASH LANDING (1958), the future First Lady’s final film, follows at 8:50PM
Neil Simon movies air on the Sony Movie Channel all day Friday, beginning with MURDER BY DEATH (1976) with Peter Falk (and a cast of thousands, or at least hundreds) at 9 a.m. and concluding with SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (1980) with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn at 6:15 p.m. And last but not least, Indiana Jones whips the Nazis into shape on Spike TV with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) at 6:30 p.m. and INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) at 9:12 p.m.
So have a happy and safe Independence Day where it’s happiest and safest – in your living room.
This article was updated with additional information on 7/4/14. Special thanks to Mitchell Kade for contributing.