At times, the calendar can be our friend.
That’s the case with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. It falls on a Saturday (July 20), meaning:
— More people will be available. Families can snuggle together … as families did a half-century ago.
— And this is a low point – a mid-summer Saturday – for viewers. There are fewer distractions. With that in mind, here’s a round-up of Saturday choices.
Keep in mind that these are subject to late change. And there will also be extensive coverage on news channels. And that PBS varies in each market. And that a few channels on this list – CNN, National Geographic, BBC America, plus the CBS News streaming service – change in each time zone; those are marked ET.
OK, there’s a lot to keep in mind. But here’s the list:
Reliving the event
— Precisely 50 years after the original, we can see Walter Cronkite’s CBS coverage on the streaming service, www.cbsnews.com/live. That’s 4:17 p.m. ET for the moon landing and 10:56 p.m. ET for the first steps on the moon.
— Cronkite’s coverage also provides the core for “Moon Landing,” from 9-11 p.m. ET on BBC America, rerunning at 2 a.m. It’s supplemented by other footage, extensive music and even an emotional NBC moment with David Brinkley.
— “From the Earth to the Moon,” 8:45 a.m., HBO2. Here’s the eighth episode of the richly crafted series, dramatizing space events. This hour views the crisis for Apollo 13; as it happens, the series is produced and hosted by Tom Hanks, who starred in the “Apollo 13” movie; it reruns at 9:45, 10:46 and 11:46 a.m. and at 12:40, 1:37, 2:34 and 3:24 p.m.
— “America’s Space Heroes,” 2-5 p.m., Smithsonian. Separate hours view the Hubble Telescope, the space station and the lunar module.
— “From The Earth to the Moon,” 4:14 p.m., HBO2. This dramatizes the astronauts’ wives, during and after the space program. Starring Sally Field, JoBeth Williams, Rita Wilson, Elizabeth Perkins and more, it’s at 5:09, 6:01 and 6:59 p.m.
— “Apollo Moon Shot,” 5-9 p.m., Smithsonian. Four of the five documentary hours rerun, peaking (8-9 p.m.), with the moon landing. The fifth part – viewing the near-disasters with Apollo 12 and Apollo 13 – reruns at 1 and 10 p.m.
— “8 Days: To the Moon and Back,” 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 9:30. In a clever combination, this uses the actual voice recordings of the astronauts, but sometimes seamlessly uses actors for visuals.
— “Apollo: The Forgotten Films,” 8-10 p.m., Discovery, rerunning at midnight; also, 7 p.m. Sunday, Science.
— “Apollo 11,” 9-11 p.m. ET, CNN, rerunning at 11. This is the lush version, using 70mm film, that has been running in movie theaters and (in a shortened version) on IMAX screens.
— “The Day We Walked on the Moon,” 9 p.m., Smithsonian, rerunning at midnight. Astronauts, their families and Mission Control people describe the moon mission.
— “Confessions From Space: Apollo,” 10 p.m., Discovery, rerunning at 2 a.m. This is an Explorers Club session with six key people, including lunar astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
— “Moon Landing:The Lost Tapes,” 10:05 p.m., History, rerunning at 2:06 a.m.
— “Apollo’s Hidden Figures,” 10:48 p.m., CNN, rerunning at 12:48 a.m. Here’s a 12-minute profile of JoAnn Morgan, NASA’s first female engineer and the only woman in the firing room during the launch.
— “Ready, Jet, Go!” has an hourlong moon-landing special. That’s 5 a.m. and at 7 and 9 p.m. on the digital PBS Kids channel; some PBS stations also have it at 8 a.m.
— “Ready, Jet, Go!” also has a separate moon-half-hour, at 12:30 p.m. on PBS Kids.
— “Let’s Go Luna!” looks at China’s Moon Festival. That’s 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. on PBS Kids and 9 a.m. on some PBS stations.
— “The Right Stuff” (1983), 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, BBC America. This is a brilliant look at the space program – and a rather cheeky one, compared to our renewed reverence for astronauts. Nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture, it won for music, sound, editing and special effects.
— “Gravity” (2013), 4-6 p.m. ET, BBC America. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock face the terror of isolation in space. Nominated for 10 Oscars, including best picture, it won seven, including for director Alfonso Cuaron.
— “Hidden Figures” (2016), 5-8 p.m., FXX. Nominated for three Oscars, including best picture, this is the true story of he black women, overlooked at first, who became key NASA mathematicians.
— “Space Cowboys” (2000), 6-9 p.m. ET, BBC America, repeating at 11. Hey, all the space films can’t be winners. Clint Eastwood directed and stars in a so-so film about former astronauts, rescuing a satellite that has equipment which, like them, seems obsolete.
— “First Man” (2018), 8-10:25 p.m., HBO, rerunning at 12:25 a.m. Following his triumphs with “Whiplash” and “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle directed this richly crafted (and fairly involving) film, with Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy as Neil and Janet Armstrong. It was nominated for four technical Oscars, winning for visual effects.