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July 4th TV schedule: Movies, TV marathons, specials and more for the holiday weekend

Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular airs live

Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular airs live from Manhattan at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 4, on NBC. Credit: Getty Images / Henny Ray Abrams

Independence Day actually means something besides fireworks, and that significance is big on TV this holiday weekend. (Along with fireworks.)

The tube explores how the United States declared itself a country in 1776, how it has evolved over the past 239 years, and how Americans have come to define ourselves.

So take some time this July Fourth to stop, watch and see.


THE NATIONAL MALL: AMERICA'S FRONT YARD (Friday 9-10 p.m., PBS) teaches us that the mall was designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French-born architect. Learn about that and much more in this history lesson covering the mall from 1791 to present.

SONS OF LIBERTY (Saturday, noon-6 p.m., repeats 6 p.m.-midnight, History) robustly dramatizes heroes of the Revolution, from young Samuel Adams (Ben Barnes) to sage Ben Franklin (Dean Norris).

JOHN ADAMS (Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m., HBO2) stars Paul Giamatti as the brilliant but prickly revolutionary turned second U.S. President in the acclaimed 2008 miniseries. With Laura Linney.

1776 (Saturday, 3-6 p.m., Turner Classic Movies) is the 1972 film of the Broadway musical detailing the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. William Daniels repeats his much-lauded stage portrayal of John Adams.

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (Saturday, 8-11 p.m., repeats 11 p.m.-2 a.m., AHC) salutes ordinary citizens' contributions to the cause.

And two titles salute unsung liquid contributions.

HOW BOOZE BUILT AMERICA (Friday, 7-10 p.m., AHC) is Mike Rowe's study of alcohol's role in times of revolution, expansion and exploration.

DRUNK HISTORY (Saturday, 11:28 a.m.-9 p.m., Comedy Central) sees inebriated comics playing historic figures including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Houdini and Walt Disney.

Other highlights: "America: Facts vs. Fiction" (Friday, noon-7 p.m., AHC); "10 Things You Don't Know About" the Founding Fathers (Friday at 8 p.m.), the American Revolution (9 p.m.), the American flag (10 p.m.) and civil rights (11 p.m., all on H2).


BULL RIDING (Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., 6 p.m.-6 a.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m.-Sunday, 9 a.m., CBS Sports Net)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (a history of the NBC perennial starting with the '70s, Friday at 2 p.m., followed by the '80s at 4 p.m., the '90s at 6 p.m., the 2000s at 8 p.m., and best-of compilations at 10 p.m., VH1)

THIS AMERICAN LIFE (NPR favorite made visual: Friday, 5-8 p.m., Saturday, 4-8 p.m., ShowCase)

DINERS, DRIVE-INS AND DIVES (all over America: Friday, 6 p.m.-4 a.m., Saturday, 8 p.m.-4 a.m., Food)

HOT DOG EATING CONTEST (Coney Island event: past encores, Saturday, 5 a.m.-noon, ESPN Classic; 2015 contest, live Saturday at noon, ESPN)

AERIAL AMERICA (overhead views of original 13 states: Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday, New York at noon, Smithsonian)

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (James Cagney wins Oscar as patriotic tunesmith George M. Cohan: Saturday at 8 p.m., TCM)

INDEPENDENCE DAY (Saturday, 1 p.m. - 1 a.m., AMC)

FORREST GUMP (Saturday, 6 p.m., ABC Family)


THE TWILIGHT ZONE (Saturday, 8 a.m. - 3 a.m., Syfy)

BATMAN (Saturday, 6:25 a.m - 11:22 a.m., IFC)

DOCTOR WHO (Saturday, 12p.m. - 9p.m., DISXD)

DEVIOUS MAIDS (Friday, 8 a.m. - 2 p.m., Lifetime)

NCIS: LOS ANGELES (Friday, noon-8 p.m., Esquire)

STRIKE BACK (Friday-Sunday, 4 p.m.-12:20 a.m., ActionMax)

POWER (Saturday, noon-12:15 a.m., Starz)

NCIS (Saturday, 1-11 p.m., USA)

RECTIFY (Saturday, 2 p.m.-6 a.m., Sundance)

LAW & ORDER: SVU (Sunday, noon-11 p.m., USA)

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (Friday, 6 a.m.-tomorrow 9 p.m., BBC America)

FANTASY ISLAND (Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., UHD)

GHOST WHISPERER (Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., ion)

LAW & ORDER (Friday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m., Sundance; Saturday, 5 p.m.-1 a.m., WE; Sunday, 4 a.m.-1 p.m., TNT)

SEX AND THE CITY (Friday, 6:30-10:40 p.m., Saturday, 1-6 p.m., Oxygen)

DOBIE GILLIS (Saturday, 1 p.m.-Monday 7 a.m., Decades)

LONESOME DOVE (miniseries Saturday, 1:30-8 p.m.; "Return to" miniseries Sunday, 2-8 p.m., both on Encore Westerns).


CHRISTMAS-IN-JULY STUNT FEATURES YULE FLICKS  (Friday-July 12, both Hallmark/Hallmark Movies & Mysteries)

ROCKY (Saturday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Spike)

THE TERMINATOR (Sunday at 7:30 and 10 p.m., BBC America), plus two sequels (Saturday, 12:30-6 p.m., again 8:30 p.m.-5 a.m., IFC)

THE MATRIX (Saturday, 2-11 p.m. TNT)

X-MEN (Saturday, 5:30-11:15 p.m., HBO Zone)

CLEOPATRA JONES (early Sunday, 3:15-6:30 a.m., TCM)


MACY'S FOURTH OF JULY FIREWORKS SPECTACULAR (Saturday, 8 p.m., NBC) Live from Manhattan, the show will not only have colorful fireworks, but will also feature performers Dierks Bentley, Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida, Brad Paisley Meghan Trainor and more. Hosted by Willie Geist and Tamron Hall.

A CAPITAL FOURTH (Saturday, 8 p.m., PBS) Live from the nation's capital, the show will be celebrating it's 35th anniversary. Along with fireworks on the West Lawn, performers like Barry Manilow, Alabama, Hunter Hayes, Lang Lang and more will be in attendance.

PHILLY 4th OF JULY JAM (June 27-July 4, 8 p.m., VH1) This show features artists such as The Roots, Miguel, Jennifer Nettles and more before ending with a firework explosion.

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