Fourth of July celebrations have it all: barbecues, apple pie with ice cream and, of course, fireworks. It’s the perfect time of year to throw down a blanket, lay back and watch the spectacular shows under the night sky. But you also need a break from all that fun in the sun, and the best place to do that is on your couch with the air conditioning running.
Are you ready to fill up on the best TV has to offer for this Fourth of July? Here are a few patriotic options we can assure are more appealing than a water-soaked bun at a hot dog eating contest.
The U.S. Capitol will be hosting its annual Fourth of July celebration. (Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS, AFP/Getty Images)
All the best fireworks
Of course, the best thing to watch on TV if you’re indoors is Fourth of July fireworks. NBC is celebrating with its annual “Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular” (8 EDT/PDT). The show will have musical performances from Luke Bryan and Khalid before the fireworks start over the East River in New York City.
PBS is also hosting a fireworks celebration, “A Capitol Fourth,” (8 EDT/PDT) from Washington, D.C. The annual party at the U.S. Capitol will be hosted this year by John Stamos and include singers Carole King, The O’Jays and Vanessa Williams, as well as a visit from everyone’s favorite residents of “Sesame Street.”
Joey Chestnut competes in the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, Getty Images)
For a classic, if cringe-y, Fourth competition
Another favorite tradition – at least for the most gluttonous among us – is “Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest” on ESPN2 (12 EDT/9 a.m. PDT) with reigning champion Joey Chestnut back to defend his title. If you miss it, the network will be re-airing the calorie-packed competition throughout Thursday afternoon. And don’t forget about the women, who have their own hot dog race airing on ESPN3 (10:45 EDT/7:45 PDT). Five-time winner Miki Sudo is back to defend the coveted Mustard Belt, awarded to the victor each year.
To prepare, seek out ESPN’s latest “30 for 30” documentary about the rivalry between Chestnut and fellow competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi. The show debuts on July 2 on ESPN (8 EDT/5 PDT).
Chris Evans kicks butt in "Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier." (Photo: Zade Rosenthal)
Check out a slew of patriotic movies
There are also plenty of movie marathons to get you in the Independence Day spirit.
Can you name a greater American superhero than Captain America? FX is planning a marathon dedicated to the patriotic Marvel character with Chris Evans starring as Steve Rogers, a scrawny World War II fighter who becomes a super soldier. The night kicks off with “Captain America: The First Avenger” (7EDT/PDT) followed by “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (9:30 EDT/PDT).
Aww: Captain America was just plain old ‘Chris’ at his 20th high school reunion
Or check out Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian who tries to unlock American mysteries in “National Treasure” (E!, 12 EDT/PDT) and its sequel, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” (E!, 3 EDT/PDT).
Another great American movie playing on the Fourth is “Glory” on Showtime (1:35 EDT/PDT), which tells the story of an African-American regiment during the Civil War. The film stars Morgan Freeman, Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington, who won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his performance.
Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington in "Glory." (Photo: MERRICK MORTON, TRI-STAR PICTURES)
Looking for fun action movies? There’s “Air Force One” (Showtime, 11:30 EDT/PDT) starring Harrison Ford as an American president who has to fend off terrorists on his plane. Or the modern classic “Top Gun” (Paramount, 2:25 EDT/PDT), which tells the story of Navy fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise).
TCM is going a bit farther back in time with a classic daylong movie marathon that includes “The Devil’s Disciple” (4:30 EDT/1:30 PDT) with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (8 EDT/5 PDT) with James Cagney and the musical “1776” (10:15 EDT/7:15 PDT).
And if you want to stretch the “American” theme a bit, check out the “American Pie” movie marathon on MTV2 (6 a.m. EDT/ PDT) that includes the original “American Pie” and its sequel, “American Pie 2” (8 a.m. EDT/PDT).
The Mansion at Mount Vernon, the estate of the first US President George Washington, in Mount Vernon, Virginia. (Photo: SAUL LOEB, AFP/Getty Images)
And get a leg up on history
For history buffs, National Geographic takes on the American presidency with a series of shows about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. “The Real George Washington: Revealed” kicks off that marathon Thursday at 3 EDT/12 PDT.
And over on the History Channel, you can catch a Fourth-inspired marathon of its miniseries “America: The Story of Us” starting at 8 a.m. EDT/PDT.
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