On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress signed into being the Declaration of Independence, a pivotal document in human history that insisted all men (who figured women didn't worry their pretty little heads about ideals, while slaves were "property") were entitled to basic inalienable rights, namely life, liberty and the pursuit of big, booming fireworks displays on TV.
A Capitol Fourth
The next time I don't send money to public television, it won't be because I'm simply indifferent, lazy or broke. It will be because Clay Aiken warbled "The Star Spangled Banner" like a Bon Jovi power ballad as patriotic preteen girls squealed themselves red, white and blue. He was followed by Bee Gee Robin Gibb, who celebrated America's history by singing "Jive Talking" as each bumpin' and grindin' middle-aged person in the crowd found a camera to mug at. For sheer feigned enthusiasm, however, none could top host Barry Bostwick, who looked as though he'd swallowed a jar of happy pills before strutting on stage. The highlights among the living belonged to Yolanda Adams, who turned "America the Beautiful" into a thrilling cry of gospel fervor. Most stirring of all was Cicely Tyson's tribute to Ray Charles, whose untimely death a few weeks back did not stop him from blowing everyone else off the stage with his own "America the Beautiful", as seen in a great archival clip. Of course, Vince Gill had to try to ruin this class moment by crooning "I Can't Stop Loving You" in a manner suitable to open mic night at the local EconoLodge.
New York feted Uncle Sam with performances by Sheryl Crow (boring) and Aretha Franklin (which I missed because I was switching back and forth from Foyle's War rats!) and commentary from Donald Trump, Sylvester Stallone and Katie Couric, who noted that Thomas Jefferson died on the 4th of July, but forgot to mention that his old rival John Adams passed on later the same day in 1826. I must thank the production and Carson Daly in particular for being uninteresting enough to drive me into researching this fact for your edification. The fireworks were quite adequate, but I wonder if Woody Guthrie intended "This Land Is Your Land" to be played as a polka.
Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular
David Lee Roth singing with the Pops? "Hey I went to college!" rationalized boyish conductor Keith Lockhart, who sported a black bow-tie to fool people into thinking that he and Tucker Carlson aren't the same person. Whoever he is, he's no Arthur Fiedler. The fireworks looked like exploding cranberries.
Masterpiece Theatre: Foyle's War (Part 2)
Det. Chief Super. Foyle (Michael Kitchen) may not be as colorful as Inspector Morse or as complex as Prime Suspect's Jane Tennison, but his workman-like demeanor is as refreshing as the setting of 1940 Brighton. Reeling from Hitler's triumph in France, the British brace themselves for an assault on their sea-girt isle as a desperate amphibious operation is hatched to rescue her troops from Dunkirk. Foyle dislikes having to chase provincial criminals when there's a war on (and his son is in the RAF) but he sucks it up in best stiff-upper-lip fashion. In "White Feather" Foyle links an act of sabotage and the murder of a hotelier's wife to the Friday Club, a group of Nazi sympathizers led by smug Guy Spencer (Charles Dance). The Friday Club's idea of a fun night is to gather around the piano and have anti-Semetic singalongs. Henry Ford may have fit in with this bunch, but Foyle is alarmed when Spencer's silver tongue begins to woo Sgt. Milner (Anthony Howell), who believes Spencer is simply misunderstood (sort of like Shickelgruber). But Spencer isn't the killer the hotelier is. He was irked that his missus signed over half of their hotel to Friday Club. Moreover, she'd been a battle axe for their entire married life so he plugged her. I wonder if Basil Fawlty was taking notes. Happily, the Friday Club got their's when Foyle discovered a coded Nazi dispatch Spencer hid in a book he'd loaned to Milner about the Zionist conspiracy!
Movies in Time: Midway
The first time I saw this was in a movie theater with "Sensurround," a process that made the seats shake when bombs went off. It's not the best way to pay tribute to our servicemen and women overseas, but it beats "The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell." The film, which meshes Irwin Allen-style disaster, recycled footage from "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and archival combat clips, recalls the pivotal 1942 sea-air battle that cost Japan four carriers and marked the end of their domination of the Pacific during WWII. It also features every single Asian actor in 1976 Hollywood Pat Morita, Robert Ito, Sab Shimono, James Shigeta, even Toshiro Mifune(as Adm. Yammamoto), whose voice was dubbed by the same guy who did Boris Badenov. But dig who's on our side Tom Selleck, Erik Estrada, Steve Kanaly, Kevin Dobson, Christopher George, Monte Markham, Dabney Coleman, Cliff Robertson, Robert Wagner, James Coburn, Robert Mitchum, Robert Webber, Hal Holbrook and Henry Fonda (who plays Adm. Nimitz). Atop this heap of celebrity is Charlton Heston and his clenched jaw, who together waste a good quarter of the movie with a sudsy subplot involving his son's Nisei girlfriend. It's worth watching the whole film just to see Heston's character kill himself (and his tailgunner) by needlessly crash-landing his plane on a carrier deck instead of ditching it in the sea. Despite the flick's patchwork nature, the basics of the battle's importance shines through. Particularly memorable is the real-life fate of the Hornet's Torpedo 8 squadron as fifteen obsolete Devastators under Lt. Cmdr. John Waldron were destroyed in a suicidal assault on Japanese ships. Only Ensign George Gay (Dobson) lived to tell the tale. "These Americans sacrifice themselves like Samurai," observes Shigeta's Adm. Nagumo, who seems to be surprised that we don't take our freedom lightly despite our best efforts. Danny Spiegel has the weekend off. Today's column was written by G. J. Donnelly