CBS offers up one of the strangest Fourth of July specials ever in “What’s Right with America” CBS at 8.
Produced by Arnold Shapiro (“Rescue 911”), the hour-long broadcast consists of strikingly different parts.
First is a ragged, roughly acted minidocudrama starring Timothy Busfield as a public-health worker who returns with his wife and two children after seven years duty in New Guinea to find a changed America. The president is a fascist who has banned women from the workplace and declared all women “property” of their husbands. Civil rights have been suspended, and dissent is dealt with harshly by Gestapolike state police.
If this is Shapiro’s vision of the conservative political agenda, “What’s Right” is a heavy-handed and insulting swipe.
Mainly, it’s dumb. No attempt is made to explain how, even in the wilds of New Guinea, one does not get word that America is under martial law. Wasn’t there any contact with their sponsoring agency or health workers from other countries? No shortwave? Did they never correspond with friends?
It’s too silly to imagine that the first word they get is when they arrive at what appears to be a small local airport. (Their town can’t be big enough to have an international airport. Didn’t they connect through a larger city where something seemed amiss?)
The point is to show us how fortunate we are to live in a country where freedom rings. To that end, it might make for constructive family viewing. Youngsters might be amazed to learn that in other parts of the world, individual rights are nonexistent.
The second half of the hour consists of four real-life stories of Americans who have worked to fight discrimination, guarantee the freedom of the press and serve the poor. Most touching is the story of a Utah teacher who escaped persecution in Communist Bulgaria.
Awkward as the hour may be, it has a message - one often lost in the day’s parades, cookouts and fireworks displays. Freedom should not be taken for granted.
“Sliders,” FOX at 8: In a two-part story, repeated back-to-back, the sliders pop into a land where dinosaurs still roam.
“A Capitol Fourth,” KSPS at 8:30: Deana Carter, Kenny Rogers, All-4-One, Jon Secada, Maria Conchita Alonso, James Galway and pianist Phil Coulter are scheduled to perform. The celebration includes salutes to “West Side Story” on the 40th anniversary of its debut and “Star Wars” on its 20th anniversary.
“Dateline NBC,” NBC at 9: Keith Morrison reports on a young Montana man’s hair-raising encounter with a grizzly bear. Repeat.
“Clueless,” ABC at 9:30: Cher (Rachel Blanchard) takes on the school when backpacks are banned by the principal. Plots such as this helped sink the series. Repeat.
“4th of July Fireworks Spectacular” CBS at 10: The 20th annual Independence Day celebration in New York City features performances by Whitney Houston, Michael Bolton and Tap Dogs.
“Pop Goes the Fourth!” A&E; at 4:30 and 7:30: It wouldn’t be the Fourth without the A&E; telecast of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra’s celebration on the Charles River. Guests include Roberta Flack and Tom Bosley and Andre Solomon-Glover from the cast of “Showboat.”
The live broadcast includes the Pops’ trademark “Stars and Stripes Forever” and a thundering rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”
“Tonight,” NBC at 12:05: Actor-comedian Sinbad, homemaking guru Martha Stewart and musical group Chicago. Repeat.
“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actor Martin Short and acrobats Fang, Fang & Nana.
“Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher,” ABC at 1:05 a.m.: Meat Loaf, Norm MacDonald, reporter Alison Stewart and columnist Linda Bowles.
“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” NBC at 1:05 a.m.: Actor-comedian Sinbad and singers Roy Clark and Deana Carter. Repeat.
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