LOOKING BACK AT TRAGEDY TV HAS A TOUGH JOB FINDING RIGHT TONE ON SEPT. 11.
ONE YEAR AGO, it was television that first advised people outside lower Manhattan that something was terribly wrong at the World Trade Center.
It was television that delivered the horrific images of four passenger jets used as bombs. It was television that helped Americans grasp the scope of the death and devastation.
And it was on television that we watched world leaders weep, pray and cry out for justice.
As the anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, it's no surprise that networks and cable channels are giving over many hours of airtime to reliving the day, remembering the victims and asking experts about the lessons learned. Network news divisions stayed with the story 90 hours or more and have archived a considerable portion of that video.
Even specialty cable networks are joining the effort. At 11 p.m. Tuesday, MTV will halt its regular programming and turn to ``consoling, thought-provoking and inspirational music videos'' through 6 a.m. Thursday. Country Music Television will run patriotic videos all day Wednesday.
At 8:46 a.m. Wednesday, A&E, the History Channel and the Biography Channel will begin running a crawl of victims' names lasting one hour, 43 minutes. At 8:30 a.m. the Scripps networks - HGTV, the Food Network, the DIY Network and Fine Living - will begin a two-hour telecast of ``a series of images, words and music intended to inspire quiet reflection.''
ESPN stays true to its sports focus with ``The Bravest Team: The Rebuilding of the FDNY Football Club,'' airing 9 p.m. Tuesday. Even Disney Channel's preschool-targeted ``Bear in the Big Blue House'' has a special one-hour episode (1 p.m. Monday through Friday) about a storm causing a big tree to fall on the library, illustrating how a community comes together in a crisis.
At the least, many stations are going commercial-free for the day or airing specially produced public service announcements. Most major advertisers, including Coca-Cola, Ford and UPS, don't want to run spots on Wednesday anyway.
Programmers were in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation on how to handle the anniversary. Some critics are screaming ``overkill.'' (``We don't need a parade of talking heads to tell us how to feel, nor a deluge of television programs to help us remember a day few of us will ever forget,'' wrote Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham.) But doing little or nothing to mark the day could appear insensitive.
``If somebody ran their regular series, the critics would go after them for sure,'' said Bob Gustafson, director of the Entertainment Industry Institute at California State University, Northridge. ``They would say, 'How thoughtless, how money-grubbing, how unpatriotic.' Criticism like that is pretty hard to take.''
Gustafson says there is likely another, more gut-level reason for the glut of programming: The worst of the three events happened in the city that is headquarters to most TV networks, and their decision makers are influenced by their own sensitivity and personal ties to the locale.
Is spending hours watching 9-11-related programs emotionally helpful or harmful to viewers? It depends on the programs' focus and tone, said Brian Lickel, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California.
He said revisiting significant events such as this can be positive, both for remembering the dead and sparking public debate on how the nation should respond.
``If the coverage is of the towers being hit and mug shots of the hijackers and then Osama bin Laden - a re-encapsulation of what, to me, was a nationalistic framing - then I think we'll see negative consequences.
``My concern as a social psychologist who studies group conflict and violence is the extent to which reportraying the events from that date will reignite the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim sort of prejudice that was seen directly after the event,'' Lickel said.
He thinks people who spend four hours or more watching anniversary coverage are likely to have stronger feelings - anger, depression or maybe even staunch support of President Bush's unrelated agendas - than people who spend this Sept. 11 at, say, a child's soccer game.
Gustafson believes that, whatever the initial impact of the anniversary programming, it will diminish over time.
``There is a huge caveat to that,'' he added. ``I think it is assumed that this is a singular event, with a beginning, middle and end. Maybe not.''
This week on TV
AMERICA REMEMBERS The attacks are recalled in clips and comments from CNN reporters, including Paula Zahn. Part 1 from 4 to 6 p.m. and Part 2 from 8 to 11 p.m., CNN.
GROWING UP AT GROUND ZERO One of the few programs truly suitable for kids, ``Growing Up'' looks at students at New York's PS 234, a school only four blocks from the World Trade Center site, and children from around the world who reached out to them. 5 p.m., MSNBC.
60 MINUTES Reports on survivors' families, and America's readiness for future attacks. 7 p.m., CBS.
FRONTLINE: CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERROR A chronological look at the U.S. response to the attacks. 9 p.m., KCET.
MSNBC INVESTIGATES: TARGET MANHATTAN This documentary was originally produced in August 2001, with former Sen. Warren Rudman and other security experts foreseeing a ``series of events leading to the destruction of the World Trade Center.'' Shelved after the attacks, it has been updated with fresh interviews, but it is the older footage - viewed through a post-9-11 perspective - that is most chilling. 10 p.m., MSNBC.
REFLECTIONS FROM GROUND ZERO Nine short films created by NYU film school students and graduates, including ``From the 104th Floor,'' an animated imagining of one trapped woman's experience; ``What Work Is,'' about iron workers who descended on the site hoping to save lives; and ``Welcome to NY,'' about how ground zero became a focal point for tourism. 8 p.m., Showtime.
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS: ANATOMY OF 9/11 The last 102 minutes of the World Trade Center, based on reporting by The New York Times. 9 p.m, A&E. Repeated at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
AFGHANISTAN YEAR 1380 This week's ``P.O.V.'' looks at the months following the retaliatory strikes against the Taliban and their toll on the already war-weary and battered civilians of Afghanistan, as seen by doctors and nurses of an international relief organization. 10 p.m., KCET.
NOVA: WHY THE TOWERS FELL The acclaimed science series had exclusive access to the forensic engineers who used computer models to determine how the massive steel structures became vulnerable and failed. 8 p.m., KCET.
REPORT FROM GROUND ZERO ABC brings to television the best-selling book by volunteer firefighter Dennis Smith, who gathered first-hand accounts of the Trade Center destruction and its aftermath. Survivors and relatives of the dead speak for themselves here. 9 p.m., ABC.
DATELINE Reports on how survivors and victims' families experienced 9-11, with Tom Brokaw. 9:30 to 11 p.m., NBC.
AMERICA REBUILDS For this documentary, narrated by Kevin Spacey, Great Projects Film Co. was granted exclusive access to Ground Zero last fall by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The footage is now the city's official record of recovery and cleanup efforts. 10 p.m., KCET.
MEMORIAL OBSERVANCES Coverage of the memorial observances in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania can be found on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News beginning on most stations at 7 a.m.
REEL LIFE: VISIONS FROM GROUND ZERO Four short documentaries and an animated film related to the attacks. 8 to 10:30 a.m., Cinemax.
TOWN HALL NBC's afternoon coverage includes Tom Brokaw's Town Hall meeting with victims' relatives, survivors and rescue workers. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., NBC.
ANSWERING CHILDREN'S QUESTIONS Peter Jennings moderates a discussion with many of the same kids and panelists who took part in one on Sept. 15, 2001. 12:30 p.m., ABC
9/11 Charles Gibson gives a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the attacks and the government's response, while Peter Jennings anchors an examination of what was going on inside the Twin Towers in the 102 minutes from the first jet's collision to the second building's collapse. 7 p.m., ABC.
FRONTLINE: FAITH AND DOUBT AT GROUND ZERO This moving program raises the question ``Where was God on 9-11?,'' giving the perspectives of theologians, the lay faithful and skeptics. 8 p.m., KCET.
60 MINUTES II Scott Pelley has an exclusive interview with George W. Bush. The president and his close advisers recall what happened within the administration during the tragedy's immediate aftermath and offer their thoughts on the future. 8 p.m., CBS.
9/11: THE DAY AMERICA CHANGED Brit Hume anchors. 8 p.m., Fox.
IN MEMORIAM: NEW YORK CITY, 9/11/01 Repeat of the Emmy-nominated documentary that aired earlier this year, with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 8 p.m., HBO.
9/11 CBS replays Jules and Gedeon Naudet's very compelling documentary, commercial- and promotion-free. The brothers began their film as a documentary about a firefighter in training, and it was their camera that captured the first jet's impact. Robert De Niro hosts. 9 p.m., CBS.
THE CONCERT FOR AMERICA Hosted by Tom Brokaw and attended by the president and first lady, the concert is to tape Monday in Washington, D.C. Performers range from opera greats Placido Domingo and Renee Fleming to pop's India.Arie, soul's Aretha Franklin and country's Alan Jackson. 9 p.m., NBC.
A REQUIEM FOR SEPT. 11 With the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra gives a live performance of Verdi's 1873 Requiem. 10 p.m., KCET.
FACE OF 9/11 On the rebuilding process at Ground Zero. 10 p.m., Discovery Channel.
2 photos, box
(1 -- color) Firefighter Dennis Smith assembles first-hand accounts of the attack in ``Report From Ground Zero,'' 9 p.m. Tuesday on ABC.
(2 -- color) Kevin Spacey narrates ``America Rebuilds,'' which airs at 10 p.m. Tuesday on KCET.
This week on TV (see text)