Some fa­mous faces take cen­ter stage in star-stud­ded Fourth of July spe­cials

TV Week - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAY BOB­BIN

What do an ac­tor who plays a pop­u­lar teacher, an­other ac­tor fa­mous for por­tray­ing a tough cop, and a for­mer boy-band mem­ber have in com­mon?

They’ll all cel­e­brate Amer­ica’s 235th birth­day in big cities and very vis­i­ble ways Mon­day.

“Glee” co-star Matthew Mor­ri­son — alias that Fox show’s Will “Mr. Schue” Schuester — will per­form in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on the PBS spe­cial “A Capi­tol Fourth” (check lo­cal listings); Emmy win­ner Michael Chik­lis (“The Shield”) will re­turn to his na­tive Mas­sachusetts to host CBS’ “Bos­ton Pops Fire­works Spec­tac­u­lar”; and 98 De­grees mu­sic vet­eran Nick Lachey, now the host of NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” will watch the skies above New York as he pre­sides over that net­work’s “Macy’s 4th of July Fire­works Spec­tac­u­lar.”

“I’ve got­ten the chance to per­form in D.C. so much over the past two years, and ev­ery op­por­tu­nity I can, I will,” Mor­ri­son says. “I love the city, and I love get­ting to meet Pres­i­dent Obama, which I’ve done six times al­ready. This is go­ing to be re­ally great, be­cause it’s out­side on the Mall. How many amaz­ing per­for­mances have hap­pened there over the his­tory of our coun­try?”

Emmy-win­ning ac­tor Jimmy Smits re­turns as host of “A Capi­tol Fourth” on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capi­tol. In ad­di­tion to Mor­ri­son, the sched­uled per­form­ers in­clude Steve Martin (with his mu­si­cal Steep Canyon Rangers), Josh Groban, Lit­tle Richard and 2007 “Amer­i­can Idol” win­ner Jordin Sparks. As usual, the Na­tional Sym­phony Orches­tra will close the show with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Over­ture as fire­works burst above.

Mor­ri­son is about to start tour­ing as a “spe­cial guest” of the Back­street Boys and New Kids on the Block in many of their tan­dem sum­mer con­certs. For his ap­pear­ance on “A Capi­tol Fourth,” he in­di­cates he’ll prob­a­bly of­fer patriotic tunes as well as songs from his self-ti­tled CD, re­leased in May.

“I do want to in­cor­po­rate some el­e­ment of dance,” Mor­ri­son notes. “It’s some­thing I’ve stud­ied my whole life, so it’s def­i­nitely go­ing to be a big part of this. I’m so proud to be an Amer­i­can, and I’m so hon­ored they picked me to help honor the coun­try.”

For Chik­lis, most re­cently of ABC’s “No Or­di­nary Fam­ily,” it’s clear that get­ting to play host to — and, also be­ing a mu­si­cian, to per­form with — the Keith Lock­hart­con­ducted Bos­ton Pops back on his home turf is a very big deal. “It’s truly one of the most thrilling things that’s ever hap­pened in my ca­reer or my life,” the ac­tor says. “That’s how ex­cited I am about it.

“The Fourth of July at the Es­planade is one of my fa­vorite events. Prob­a­bly half the Fourths that I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in my life­time have been spent there; it’s a fam­ily tra­di­tion ev­ery year. A cou­ple of years ago, we were sitting there watch­ing the show, and Craig Fer­gu­son was host­ing. I think the world of him, and he had just be­come an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, so it worked per­fectly for the night. My wife went, ‘You should do this!’ And I said, ‘Michelle, they have to ask me.’ ”

When the in­vi­ta­tion fi­nally came, it likely was an out­growth of Chik­lis’ re­cent work with CBS on a sit­com pilot that ul­ti­mately wasn’t picked up.

“You know, this is an out-of-sight, out-of mind busi­ness,” he rea­sons, “and when you’re in sight, you’re in mind. My un­der­stand­ing is that right af­ter I signed on for the pilot, they went into a room to de­cide who was go­ing to host (the July Fourth spe­cial) this year, and I think I was very fresh in their minds, and it just came up. So yes, I think that had ev­ery­thing to do with it. It was just a lucky hap­pen­stance.”

Lachey is no stranger to the Macy’s spe­cial, so he largely knows what’s en­tailed for him in be­ing the host of it. He re­ports, “I per­formed on the show one year, and my fi­ancee (ac­tress and en­ter­tain­ment jour­nal­ist Vanessa Min­nillo) used to have an apart­ment at 34th and First ... so we’d watch the fire­works ev­ery year. The Fourth of July in New York is kind of a tra­di­tion for us, and it’s very ex­cit­ing to be the host.”

This year, the Macy’s event also salutes the 125th an­niver­sary of an­other New York sta­ple, the Statue of Lib­erty. Bey­once and Brad Pais­ley are among the sched­uled per­form­ers, and the show’s 25-minute dis­play of lights will be syn­chro­nized to a recorded sound­track slated to fea­ture such artists as Katy Perry, Taio Cruz and Jen­nifer Hud­son.

Thanks to the NBC competition “The Sing-Off,” which starts its third sea­son this fall, Lachey has got­ten very com­fort­able with the job of guid­ing view­ers though a show.

“Glee” star Matthew Mor­ri­son per­forms on “A Capi­tol Fourth” on Mon­day on Chan­nel 9.

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