4th of July Music and Fireworks on NBC and PBS, Netflix Celebrates ‘We the People,’ Remembering Dick Gregory
Happy birthday, America! As families and friends gather in a way they couldn’t a year ago, a TV tradition continues: All-star concerts and fireworks spectaculars in Washington, D.C. and New York City. If we’d rather be reminded of the nation’s ideals, Netflix’s We the People uses the Schoolhouse Rock approach of animation and music to deliver mini-civics lessons. A new documentary celebrates the life and career of comedian-turned-activist Dick Gregory.
A Capitol Fourth
The longest-running July 4 TV tradition is the annual concert from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Although this year’s, like in 2020, will feature mostly pre-recorded performances from Washington, D.C. and around the country, one thing hasn’t changed: the rousing fireworks display with the national monuments in the background as the National Symphony Orchestra plays the “1812 Overture.” Vanessa Williams hosts the special, with performers including Jimmy Buffett, Gladys Knight, Tony winners Cynthia Erivo, and Ali Stroker, country stars Alan Jackson (in Nashville), Jennifer Nettles (from New York’s Town Hall), Mickey Guyton, and Jimmie Allen (in D.C.) and Pentatonix harmonizing against L.A.’s downtown skyline. (Sunday)
Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular
With a revived New York City as a backdrop, the annual concert is capped by a 25-minute fireworks display over the East River. New Amsterdam’s Ryan Eggold and Girls5Eva star (and Hamilton Tony winner) Renée Elise Goldsberry are hosts, with a talent lineup including Reba McEntire, The Voice’s Blake Shelton, Coldplay, OneRepublic, and Black Pumas. A special light show will accompany Jonas Brothers on their new song “Leave Before You Love Me” with special guest Marshmello, with 350 airborne drones symbolizing Team USA in advance of the Tokyo Olympics later this month. (Sunday)
We the People
For another dose of national pride, a series of 10 animated shorts brings back fond memories of Schoolhouse Rock as a blue-chip ensemble of musical artists delivers messages about civics, government and citizenship in unconventional ways. Executive producers including Barack and Michelle Obama and black-ish creator Kenya Barris have recruited quite the lineup: Hamilton and In the Heights’ ubiquitous Lin-Manuel Miranda, H.E.R., Janelle Monáe, Brandi Carlile, Adam Lambert, Bebe Rexha, Andra Day, and celebrated youth poet Amanda Gorman. (Sunday)
The One and Only Dick Gregory
There was a time when he made audiences laugh, but Dick Gregory’s true legacy is how he made them see the world through his outspoken activism. A documentary from director/producer Andre Gaines celebrates all aspects of his career as a comedian, agitator, and educator, with commentary from the generations he influenced and inspired, including Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart, and W. Kamau Bell. (Sunday)
Inside Weekend TV:
- Rod, White & Blue: A Twilight Zone Celebration (Decades, starts Saturday at noon/ET through Monday at 6 am/ET): You simply can’t go wrong with Rod Serling’s influential anthology of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror allegories. For the fourth year, the nostalgia channel blankets the 4th of July weekend with 76 of the series’ best and often creepiest episodes.
- A Discovery of Witches (Sunday, 7/6c, AMC): Being in Elizabethan London gets real for 21st-century witch Diana (Teresa Palmer) when she and vampire lover/secret spy Matthew (Matthew Goode) are summoned to appear before Queen Elizabeth I (Barbara Marten), who’s keen to find the secret to immortality.
- Sunday Night Baseball (Sunday, 7 pm/ET, ESPN): Alex Rodriguez is back in Yankee Stadium, providing commentary with Matt Vasgersian and Buster Olney, as the Yankees welcome the New York Mets for a Subway Series matchup.
- Evil (streaming on Paramount+): “Who doesn’t think God has a sense of humor?” quips Ben (Aasif Mandvi) the unbeliever, as the team watches a Catholic priest (Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell) and a Muslim sheikh prepare an exorcism on a 9-year-old girl who may be possessed by a fire-starting djinn. Just another day in the life for these spiritual detectives.