Remembering D-Day On History, NBC, HBO And AHC

Tonight at 9 p.m. ET, in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, History will present “D-Day in HD,” an ambitious high-definition documentary on the subject that should be required viewing for young people and should be on the radar of anyone old enough to appreciate the significance of its content. The launch of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe (codenamed Operation Overlord), D-Day was the largest amphibious military operation in history. It began with the Normandy landings (referred to as Operation Neptune) on June 6, 1944.

History is often knocked by critics for loading its schedule with reality series that have little or nothing to do with the subject its name suggests. Of course, those complaints don’t come from viewers who can’t seem to get enough of “Pawn Stars,” “Mountain Men,” “Swamp People,” “Top Gear,” and other such shows with no pretense to historical significance whatsoever. “Pawn Stars,” in particular, seems to be one of those shows that everyone watches -- except critics, that is.

But History has been on a roll of late, connecting the traditional understanding of is brand with important events of the moment. For example, it recently marked Memorial Day with the launch of a three-part mini-series “The World Wars,” which focused on such titanic historical figures as Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin, men who were involved in World Wars I and II and changed the lives of millions of people around the globe then and now.

And now we have “D-Day in 3D.” In its own way, History is doing everything it can to raise awareness of this special program with its regular audience. The 9 p.m. telecast will be preceded by three episodes of one of the network’s most popular reality series, “American Pickers.” What’s more, two additional episodes of “Pickers” have been scheduled between “D-Day” and the first of what I am sure will be many encore presentations.

“D-Day in HD” should not be confused with “D-Day in 3D,” the fascinating 2013 Discovery Channel documentary that explores how three-dimensional photography in its earliest form was utilized by the Allies when planning the June 6 operation. It will be repeated tonight on the American Heroes Channel. Also of note: AHC today is repeating the 13-part 2008 documentary series “World War II in Color” as an extended lead-in to “D-Day in 3D.”

Meanwhile, NBC tonight at 8 p.m. ET will present “Brian Williams Reporting: Journey to Normandy,” featuring interviews with four WWII veterans. It appears to be the only special program on any broadcast network that will commemorate this historic day, at least in prime time.

HBO is marking the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings today with a marathon of its already classic 2001 miniseries “Band of Brothers.” Based on the book by Stephen E. Ambrose, it tells the story of Easy Company, the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army, which parachuted into France on D-Day, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and captured Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden. This production is an extraordinary (and, at times, extraordinarily upsetting) accomplishment that loses none of its power with repeat viewings, especially on a day like today. 

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