NEW YORK — If advance reports are any indication, Americans are planning to stay home in record numbers this New Year’s Eve. The question is: Will they be watching Tom Brokaw, Andy Griffith or Elvis Presley?
While the broadcast networks are planning nonstop Y2K celebration coverage — dispatching top anchors such as Brokaw around the world — the cable networks will offer a quirkier alternative with themed marathon programming geared to niche audiences.
Sci-Fi has a “Twilight Zone” marathon; TBS will air back-to-back episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show”; Turner Classic Movies will devote the night to an Elvis movie marathon; A&E will air the four-hour “Biography of the Millennium”; and the Movie Channel will run the entire “Friday the 13th” movie series.
Lifetime is encouraging viewers to help program the femme cabler’s New Year’s movie marathon by casting their votes online at http://www.lifetimetv.com. The resulting “You Pick a Flick Weekend” will run Dec. 31-Jan. 2.
Animal Planet is also soliciting audience feedback for its New Year’s Eve “Crocodile Hunter” marathon. Viewers can vote online at Animalplanet.com for their 10 favorite episodes, which will air back-to-back beginning at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31.
Sister network TLC is preparing for “Armageddon” with a marathon of apocalyptic programming from 7 p.m. Dec. 31 to 3 a.m. Jan. 1. Ringing in the new year with a different approach to the millennium bug, Discovery will air insect-related shows 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.
News from everywhere
CNN is taking a more serious approach to New Year’s with 100 hours of comprehensive, global news coverage of millennium-related events and programs that examine the major cultural issues of the century, beginning at 5 a.m. on Dec. 31 and running through Jan. 4.
Fox News Channel will ring in 2000 with 23 hours of live coverage from around the world, beginning at 5 a.m. on Dec. 31. FNC’s coverage will take a futuristic approach to examining what the American way of life will look like once the new millennium arrives.
MSNBC will present more than 30 continuous hours of live coverage, with reports by NBC News correspondents as each time zone across the globe turns 2000, beginning on Dec. 31 at 4:30 a.m. MSNBC’s Brian Williams will lead the millennium-eve coverage with a four-hour special beginning at 9 p.m. on Dec. 31.
Comedy Central plans to wrap up a thousand years of comedy with special millennium episodes of “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” “The Man Show” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” presents “The Greatest Millennium.” At 10 p.m., a “South Park Millennium Special” will kick off four episodes of “South Park” leading up to the comedy network’s annual New Year’s Eve countdown “live” from South Park.
MTV be in the center of the action with its live “MTV 2 Large New Year’s Eve Party,” telecast from the music cabler’s Times Square studio. Jay-Z, 98 Degrees, Christina Aguilera, Blink-182, Bush, the Goo Goo Dolls and Puff Daddy are scheduled to perform during the festivities, which run 7 p.m.-1 a.m.
MTV’s sister network VH1 will ring out the 20th century and welcome Y2K with a week-long “Behind the Music Millennium Countdown” marathon, beginning Dec. 27 at 6 a.m. and continuing through Jan. 2 at 10 p.m. Encore editions of music biography series will air back-to-back, 24 hours a day for all seven days.
TLC general manager Jana Bennett has high hopes for the night in terms of attracting viewers. “As we go into the millennium, New Year’s Eve stands a chance to be the biggest single night of television-viewing across the whole planet. There are more TV sets than there have been, and there’s a desire to be connected to the rest of the world,” said Bennett.