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Titanic's 100th anniversary will go on and on -- on TV

April 10, 2012 |  4:16 pm

Titanic leaves Southampton on April 10, 1912
The RMS Titanic sank below the icy waters of the north Atlantic in the early-morning hours of April 15, 1912. Now, 100 years later, it's considered one of the greatest disasters of the 20th century, the basis of one of the biggest movies of the 20th century and the cause of everyone's problems on "Downton Abbey."

To commemorate the anniversary, director James Cameron gave a multimillion-dollar 3-D face-lift to his movie epic, "Titanic" and re-released it into theaters. But for those watching the small screen, there are still lots of ways to relive those moments without heading out to the theater.

National Geographic Channel is, quite understandably, all over the anniversary. After all, Cameron is an explorer-in-residence, along with Robert Ballard, the man credited with discovering the wreck of the Titanic in the modern era. Both men are getting new specials on National Geographic Channel, both premiering a week before the anniversary and both re-airing during a nine-hour Titanic marathon on Sunday.

TIMELINE | Titanic: A century in TV and film

"Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron" features the director and sometime deep-sea diver working with engineers, architects, historians and a 42-foot replica of the ship itself to solve all the remaining mysteries behind how and why the massive vessel sank like it did.

Meanwhile, "Save the Titanic With Bob Ballard," looks at the very real jeopardy the ship is in today, as treasure hunters are slowly but surely looting the wreck. He also travels to Ireland to meet the descendants of Titanic's Guarantee Group, the nine men who helped build the ship and were selected to sail on its maiden voyage.

National Geographic will also air five hours of the "Rebuilding Titanic" series, in which modern-day craftsmen attempt to re-create portions of the mighty ship using the practices that were used to build it in the first place.

On PBS on Tuesday, "Dancing With the Stars" judge Len Goodman goes back to his roots as a welder at Harland & Woolf, the company that built Titanic, and interviews the descendants of the ship's passengers -- both the survivors and the victims. "Titanic With Len Goodman" airs at 8 p.m., so it won't interfere with Goodman's other appearance on the "Dancing With the Stars" results show on ABC.

ABC has its own "Titanic" film on the way on Saturday, with the two-night miniseries, titled "Titanic." What sets this production apart from Cameron's big-screen extravaganza is the name on the scripts: Julian Fellowes. Fellowes is the man behind the PBS hit "Downton Abbey," and this miniseries looks to be taking many of the class issues from the show and bringing them to sea.

Turner Classic Movies will air two Titanic-themed movies on Saturday: the 1958 version of the Titanic's final voyage "A Night to Remember" and the 1964 Debbie Reynolds musical, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," about the Titanic survivor.

Discovery will air a trio of Titanic-themed documentaries on Saturday: "Last Mysteries of the Titanic," featuring James Cameron's return dives to the wreck, "Titanic: Birth of the Legend," about the construction of the mighty ship, and "What Sank Titanic?" about the ship's final moments.

On Sunday, History will air three Titanic documentaries: "Titanic's Final Moments: Missing Pieces," recounts a 2005 trip to the wreck to attempt to determine exactly how the ship sank. "Titanic's Achilles Heel" follows experts to the wreck of the similarly designed ship, the Brittanic, as they investigate whether the ship had a fatal flaw in its design. And then comes the premiere of "Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved," which presumably will answer every other question left unanswered about the wreck. Which, judging from the number of people on Twitter who weren't even aware it was real, should mean there are still plenty of questions out there.

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-- Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Titanic leaves Southampton on April 10, 1912. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

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