ABC found last year with its coverage of the Statue of Liberty birthday salute that there are plenty of people willing to watch TV on the Fourth of July, if the programming is right. So the network is turning over all three hours of prime-time tonight to "A Star-Spangled Celebration."
It's the largest but hardly the only holiday special planned for today. Elsewhere there will be rousing music celebrations, patriotic movies and flashy fireworks.
Billed as an "entertainment magazine," "A Star-Spangled Celebration" (8-11 p.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42) will be hosted by Oprah Winfrey and will include appearances by Barbara Mandrell, Bernadette Peters, Robert Urich, Tony Bennett and Alabama, among others.
Beyond entertainment, however, the program also intends to focus attention on the country's illiteracy problems and what is being done to solve them.
Locally, Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards will be at Anaheim Stadium at 9 tonight to host KTLA Channel 5's "Saturday in the Park . . . A 4th of July Celebration." The program will feature fireworks from the stadium and from nearby Disneyland.
Local stations will be waving the flag with telecasts of "Rally 'Round the Flag Boys" (4 p.m. Channel 11), "1776" (5 p.m. Channel 28), "Stars and Stipes Forever" (9 p.m. Channel 11) and "When Every Day Was the Fourth of July" (10 p.m., Channel 9). And KCET Channel 28 will repeat "The Making of Liberty," a documentary about the design and manufacture of the Statue of Liberty, at 4 p.m.
On PBS, John Williams leads the Boston Pops orchestra and guest performer Johnny Cash in a special Fourth of July offering of "Evening at Pops" (7 p.m. on Channel 15, 8 p.m. on Channel 28). Marvin Hamlisch conducts the National Symphony in "A Capitol Fourth," with guest flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal (7:30 p.m. on Channel 24, 8 p.m. on Channel 50, 8:30 p.m. on Channel 15 and 9:30 p.m. on Channel 28).
Even Cable News Network will load up on Fourth of July events, checking out Willie Nelson's Fourth of July picnic in Texas, the Stars and Stripes Regatta in New York and the National Symphony concert and fireworks in Washington, among other celebrations, during the day's programming.