Viewers’ Guide

09.06.11

TV Remembers 9/11

With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 upon us, television networks are offering wall-to-wall coverage and a slew of documentaries about America’s darkest day. Jace Lacob and Maria Elena Fernandez offer eight recommendations of what to watch.

Given that it is the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, it’s no surprise that the networks, from the broadcasters to premium cable, are pondering the significance and ramifications of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Every network is offering some form of remembrance, from documentaries and televised memorial services to concerts and scripted movies like USA’s The Space Between, that explore the historic and cataclysmic events of that day from our vantage point 10 years later.

While it would be impossible to watch everything 9/11-related (networks started airing their documentaries—including Discovery’s six-hour Steven Spielberg-produced doc Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero—as early as August), The Daily Beast has rounded up eight of the most newsworthy, compelling, or enlightening 9/11 programs airing on television this week.

By Network:

CNN: CNN presents two investigations and one documentary leading up to the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports airs on Sept. 7 at 11 p.m. and examines how emergency responders are coping with the health effects of the toxic dust and noxious fumes they inhaled at the disaster site. The environmental hazards have caused severe respiratory ailments, immune system problems, and possibly cancer. Dr. Gupta talks to firefighters who are experiencing physical problems as well as those dealing with emotional trauma. Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11 airs on Sept. 8 at 11 p.m. and profiles the overlooked female rescue workers who raced to the Twin Towers. Soledad O’Brien looks at the work of these women over the last decade. Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience airs on Sept. 9 at 11 p.m. features the untold stories of 40 men and women who led and sacrificed for America in the days and months after the attacks. The special presentation from Time magazine and HBO also features dramatic recollections from government leaders, survivors of the towers, and first responders. (The documentary will also air on HBO on Sept. 11 at exactly 8:46 a.m., 10 years to the minute from when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center.)

PBS: The national public broadcasting provider will air a number of 9/11-themed documentaries. NOVA presents Engineering Ground Zero (Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 9 p.m.), which follows the five-year journey of architects and engineers as they build the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and One World Trade Center, taking viewers behind the scenes to depict the struggle of all involved to meet deadlines and service green architecture and the memory of those fallen that day. Frontline will air Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero (Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 10 p.m.), an exploration about how people’s faith in the face of the 9/11 attacks; the show will discuss the nature of religion and evil and talk to 30 observers—including survivors of the Twin Towers, priests, rabbis, Buddhists, Muslims, and atheists—about the numerous religious and theological questions that September 11 created. Elsewhere, PBS Newshour (Sunday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m.) will present a one-hour broadcast entitled America Remembers – 9/11, which will explore the significance of the day in communities across America and how Americans in various walks of life are coping with the aftermath 10 years later and stream live video of the 9/11 New York memorial services, while Great Performances (Sunday, Sept. 11 at 10 p.m.) will offer The New York Philharmonic 10th Anniversary Concert for 9/11, taped the evening before at Avery Fisher Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center and featuring Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection. (For airtimes in your area, check your local listings for details.)

HBO: The premium cable channel will also present a number of 9/11-related programs in the days leading up to and on Sept. 11. On Saturday, Sept. 10 at 8 p.m., HBO will air the 2004 documentary Nine Innings From Ground Zero, which explores the fervor with which New Yorkers embraced baseball after the attacks, and the Yankees’ road to the World Series—including threats of terrorist attacks and anthrax scares—is covered in depth here. HBO will also re-air the 2002 documentary, In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01 (Sunday, Sept. 11 at 7:15 a.m.), in which former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his executive staffers recall 9/11 and the events of that fateful day are recreated with audio, video, and photography culled from more than 100 sources. Finally, there’s Telling Nicholas: The Emmy-winning documentary about a 7-year-old boy who lost his mother in the Twin Towers Attack airs on HBO Signature on Sept. 11 at 10:30 p.m. The film follows the life of Nicholas Lanza, whose mother worked at the World Trade Center and was thought to be missing for 10 days after the terrorist attacks. Telling Nicholas follows Nicholas and his family as they come to grips with his mother Michele’s death and uses footage shot through apartment windows blocks from the World Trade Center.

Individual Programs:

9/11: Ten Years Later: The filmmakers behind the Emmy-winning and Peabody-winning documentary 9/11 update their 10-year-old work with new interviews and footage of the rebuilding of ground zero and the 9/11 memorial. Robert DeNiro returns as the host of the program. The original film contained an exclusive insider’s account of the World Trade Center attacks, including the only footage of the first plane striking the World Trade Center and the only footage from inside ground zero. Directed by French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet and James Hanlon, 9/11 began as an inside look into the journey of a probationary firefighter. The project, which began filming in May 2001 put the filmmakers, cameras still rolling, in the position of unexpectedly witnessing the attacks and capturing more than 75 minutes of footage from inside the North Tower as the rescue effort was underway. The new version includes new interviews with firefighters who were featured in the original program. It will air on CBS on Sept. 11 at 8 p.m.

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Rebirth: Showtime will air director Jim Whitaker’s documentary Rebirth on Sept. 11 at 9 p.m., after a limited theatrical run in Los Angeles and New York. The film follows the personal transformation of five people, directly affected by the 9/11 attacks, over the course of a decade as they change emotionally, psychologically, and physically after experiencing the horror of 2001. (Rebirth also explores the changing face of ground zero itself, offering staggering multi-camera time-lapse images of the space where the Twin Towers once stood over the last 10 years.) A celebration of hope and human will, Rebirth is a look at the rebirth of both a nation and a people in the face of the unthinkable, and will be permanently housed at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

The Space Between:  A rare scripted television effort about 9/11, USA’s The Space Between (Sunday, Sept. 11 at 9 p.m., presented commercial-free) stars Academy Award winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) as flight attendant Montine McLeod, who forges a bond with Omar, a 10-year-old Pakistani-American boy (Anthony Keyvan), when the plane they are on is grounded in Texas on the morning of 9/11. When Montine learns that the boy’s father (Phillip Rhys) works in the World Trade Center, they embark on a cross-country road trip to New York, as Montine hopes to reunite Omar with his father… though it’s possible she will bring him face to face with searing devastation and loss. Together, they discover the unbreakable human spirit and our innate capacity for hope.

Twin Towers: Immediately following the world premiere of The Space Between, USA will air Academy Award-winning 2003 documentary short Twin Towers (Sunday, Sept. 11 at 10:21 p.m.), from producers Dick Wolf and Peter Jankowski (Law & Order), which depicts the true story of two brothers, a New York City policeman and a New York City firefighter, both first responders who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. The footage used in the documentary—directed by Bill Guttentag and Robert David Port—began life as a reality-TV series pilot from Wolf about an NYPD squad, of which 14 members died on Sept. 11.