President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural committee is producing a television special for the night of his inauguration next week in lieu of the normal in-person festivities, an official familiar with the plans told POLITICO.
The prime-time event will air on broadcast channels ABC, CBS and NBC but not Fox. Cable news networks CNN and MSNBC will carry it live. Fox News will not.
The 90-minute program, hosted by Tom Hanks and beginning at 8:30 p.m., will include performances by Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Ant Clemons and Jon Bon Jovi. Besides the celebrities, the program, dubbed “Celebrating America,” will “spotlight American heroes,” according to a description of the event.
“We have witnessed countless heroes this past year step up to the frontlines and serve their fellow Americans, so we are telling their stories, spreading their collective light, and celebrating the best of our country and its people with this prime-time program,” Tony Allen, the CEO of Biden’s presidential inaugural committee, said in a statement.
The televised special is also the latest instance of the coronavirus pandemic upending traditional inauguration festivities. There will be no in-person concerts as there were before Donald Trump and Barack Obama were sworn in. Nor will there be the usual smorgasbord of inaugural balls with donors, politicians, and lobbyists glad-handing. Even the parade is set to be virtual.
The emphasis on virtual over in-person activities has grown over the past week. In addition to Covid-19, Biden organizers and law enforcement are now more worried about violent disruptions from supporters of President Donald Trump following the storming of the Capitol last week.
“Our first priority is safety — so while many of us will be watching safely from our homes, we are creating real moments of connection that highlight a new inclusive American era of leadership that works for and represents all Americans,” said Allen.
The TV special is modeled in part on the virtual Democratic National Convention this past summer. Like that event, the “Celebrating America” special will also include a mix of pre-taped and live appearances from around the country with notable celebrities. Three of the DNC’s producers — Obama alumni Stephanie Cutter, veteran TV producer Rick Kirshner and Rod O’Connor — are also producing the TV special.
Biden’s inaugural programming will kick off this weekend with virtual events. On Monday, the inaugural committee is hosting a national day of service followed by a memorial to people who have died from Covid-19 on Tuesday.
Biden will travel to Washington from Wilmington, Del. on Tuesday via Amtrak, an ode to his days as a senator, when he would commute to and from Washington on a daily basis. Details of Biden’s train plans have yet to be announced, and a spokesman for the inaugural committee declined to comment.