Alibi V.13 No.27 • July 1-7, 2004 

Idiot Box

Bottle Rockets and Remote Controls

Independence Day around the Dial

As Americans, we like to spend at least one day a year celebrating our patriotism with large doses of macaroni salad, canned beer and low-grade Chinese explosives. Yes, this Sunday is Independence Day. And, as the sadly unpaid spokesperson for network, cable and satellite TV providers, it is my duty to encourage you to add a dose of slothful television viewing to your Fourth of July diet of artery-clogging food, liver-damaging booze and finger-endangering fireworks.

If you want to wake up at the crack of dawn, you can tune in to American Movie Classics, which will be broadcasting a rousing marathon with all five Rocky movies, plus the “In Character” reality series with one obsessive fan trying to become Rocky. The original Rocky (AMC 4 a.m.) gets things started. If that seems a tad early to you, the whole punchy thing starts all over again at 3:30 p.m. Of course, if you just want to root for Rocky to beat the evil Reagan-era Russian, Rocky IV starts at 11:30 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Discovery Channel also gives us a day-long marathon, this one featuring the gambling documentary “American Casino” (Discovery 10 a.m.-7 p.m.) and the cycle-building series “American Chopper” (Discovery 7 p.m.-12 a.m.). You see, both have the word “American” in the title and sound kinda patriotic but mostly involve people yelling at one another on the job. (Which, come to think of it, is pretty all-American.)

FOX, never exactly the thinking man's network, expends nary a brain cell by scheduling the bombastic summer flick Independence Day (KASA-2 7 p.m.) in its now-annual timeslot. Aliens invade. The president and Will Smith kick their asses. Go team!

PBS takes the high road, of course, with “A Capitol 4th” (KNME-5 7 p.m.) featuring Erich Kunzel conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. This one should be good, so long as they can keep partisan bickering between the Bible-thumping brass section and those pansy liberal woodwind folks to a minimum.

CBS follows in a similar classical musical vein with a broadcast of “The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular 2004” (KRQE-13 9 p.m.), which may or may not have a bunch of college-educated longhairs holding up lighters and shouting “Pachelbel's Canon, dude!”

NBC goes the pop culture route, throwing commercialism and patriotism in one big, boiling pot with “Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular: The Light of Freedom” (KOB-4 8 p.m.). MTV host Carson Daly and “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barino will be on hand to support our troops and extoll the virtues of shopping at Macy's department stores.

ABC, still unable to determine who the hell its audience is, tosses every random star they can find up on stage for “An American Celebration at Ford's Theater” (KOAT-7 9 p.m.). Performing live for President and Mrs. Bush will be Patti LaBelle, David Spade, Jessica Simpson, Gary Sinise, Rascal Flatts, Kelsey Grammer, five Winter Olympic gold medal winners and “the singing policeman” Daniel Rodriguez. Is it too much to hope for an end-of-show all-star jam?