Anderson Cooper's new daytime talk show happens to premiere on Sept. 12, but don't expect the CNN newshound to use the occasion to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
"I think it's going to be so broadly covered from Aug. 31 to Sept. 11 that people are probably going to want to move on once it's over," said Jim Murphy, producer for "Anderson," which will air weekday mornings on WCCO, Ch. 4. "The day itself is going to be gut-wrenching, especially in New York, but I think people will feel there's a finality to it at that point."
Murphy is wrong about one thing: TV networks aren't waiting until the last day of August to look back.
National Geographic Channel kicks off a week of 9/11 prime-time programming on Aug. 28, starting with "George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview," a revealing account of the day's horrors through the eyes of the former president, marking the first time he's spoken in detail on the subject.
Not all networks have revealed their coverage plans, but you can expect it to top the 45 hours of prime-time specials that commemorated the fifth anniversary.
What is confirmed:
- On Sept. 5, the Smithsonian Channel will air "9/11: Day That Changed the World," featuring stories from former Bush administration figures Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and First Lady Laura Bush.
- FX's "Rescue Me," the Denis Leary dramedy about firefighters struggling to deal with the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse, will air its final episode Sept. 7.
- MSNBC will turn over Sept. 9 to a three-hour documentary hosted by Richard Engel and Rachel Maddow, examining how the country has changed over the past decade.
- On Sept. 10, Paul McCartney will share his reflections of 9/11 in the Showtime special "The Love You Make."
- On Sept. 11, CBS will air "9/11: 10 Years Later," an update of the award-winning film hosted by Robert De Niro.
If you're already cringing at the idea of watching the planes slice into the towers repeatedly, you're not alone.
"We felt that we were extremely careful and cautious about using those images over and over again," said Peter Schnall, the filmmaker who interviewed Bush the day after Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. fighters. "I think you will find when you watch the entire film that there's very little stock footage of the horrors that unfolded in front of us on those TV screens during those days."
But MSNBC isn't shying away from those traumatic images. On Sept. 11, the network will repeat the "Today" episode from that fateful day in its entirety.
This is the fifth time the network has rebroadcast that episode, in large part because viewers ask for it, said MSNBC president Phil Griffin: "It's painful, but it is what happened. It's a reminder."
It may sound strange for National Geographic Channel to turn over a whole week of airtime to the subject, but keep in mind that its 2005 four-hour documentary, "Inside 9/11," remains the most-watched program in the network's history.
"This is probably the biggest event in American history over the last 50 years," said Michael Cascio, NGC's senior vice president of programming. "A week of programming is probably not even enough to go into the different ways it has affected us."
A necessary history lesson
Few would argue that the anniversary deserves attention, but does it have to be so graphic, so detailed, so ... painful?
Yes -- if only to teach a new generation.
According to Nickelodeon research, 92 percent of kids between the ages of 8 and 11 are aware of the importance of 9/11, but they've got a wide range of ideas about what actually transpired.
"You hear kids say, 'I heard there were 500 planes that disappeared' or 'I heard the people in the planes were Japanese' or 'I heard Saddam Hussein attacked us,'" said longtime broadcaster Linda Ellerbee, who will host a special episode of "Nick News" Sept. 4 in which she discusses the event with children. "The most stunning one -- and we heard it more than once -- was 'I heard 9/11 never happened.'"
Ellerbee is one of the most sensitive journalists in the business when it comes to kids, but she thinks it's a mistake to sugarcoat the horrors.
"Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance can be dangerous," she said. "Don't lie to kids. They can handle the truth. They're not dumb. They're just younger and shorter. Treat them with respect. Life is hard, even if you're an 11-year-old. Remind them that wherever you find bad things happening in this world, you can also always find good people trying to make it better."
That's also a good tip for us grownups as we brace ourselves for a tough month.