While the U.S.' 244th birthday is a little different from past years due to the coronavirus pandemic, PBS will try to bring some semblance of normalcy Saturday night by celebrating the 40th anniversary of A Capitol Fourth — an annual July 4 tradition for families across the country. This year's event will be hosted by Full House actor John Stamos and singer Vanessa Williams, with pre-taped performances from singers. The broadcast, which kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on local PBS stations, also includes a live fireworks display from Washington, D.C.
The performances were filmed in D.C., New York, Nashville, Philadelphia and Los Angeles without live audiences to follow guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The 90-minute show will include a tribute to health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, a segment honoring the contributions of African Americans and a tribute to wounded soldiers and their families.
PBS is making the special readily available online. It will be streamed on Facebook and YouTube. The special will also be available on Video On Demand from July 4 to July 18. The show will air around the world on the American Forces Network for troops serving overseas. The show will also be broadcast on NPR member stations.
Stamos will lead the tribute to front line workers, with Chrissy Metz performing "I'm Standing With You" tonight. "These workers are committed to keeping us safe, keeping us fed, healing the sick, and keeping the country going during this pandemic," Stamos said in a statement. "It's important for all of us to take a moment in our show to thank them and honor them for their spirit and courage."
The roster of performers includes Patti LaBelle, John Fogerty, Renee Fleming, The Temptations, Trace Adkins, Andy Grammer, Yolanda Adams, Brantley Gilbert, Lauren Alaina, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O'Hara, Mandy Gonzalez, and the National Symphony Orchestra with conductor Jack Everly. The broadcast will include memorable segments from past concerts, which were usually staged at the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol under normal circumstances. The fireworks will be accompanied by Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture."
"It’s like a heck of a combination punch by a heavyweight boxer," Temptations singer Otis Williams told WTOP of the coronavirus pandemic. "It’s just unfortunate that we are going through this, but I’m a believer that we will come through. We’ve just got to galvanize as a people and as a country and get through it."