The turn of the millennium, though purists may prefer waiting till next year, brings with it an unprecedented attempt by television to check in on festivities around the globe.
ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox will anchor their coverage from Times Square in New York; PBS host Gwen Ifill will be in Washington; Pax TV's 24-hour party is world-wide.
And Dick Clark, without whom New Year's Eve would be incomplete for American viewers, will be in Times Square again for this one.
Here's what to expect:
ABC and PBS
From the BBC in London, executive producer Zvi Dor-Ner, who originated the idea of an international consortium, is coordinating "2000 Today," a 25-hour telecast that draws from reports from more than 50 nations. Participants include the BBC, TV Asashi in Japan, CBC Canada, TV 3 New Zealand, ABC Australia, ONCE TV in Mexico, SABC in South Africa, Italy's RAI, TF1 France and, for the United States, ABC and PBS.
Austin Hoyt, executive producer of PBS's contributions, said the complicated production is based on the BBC's "hub" model: Contributions go first to country-control centers, then to regional hubs. The hubs send the footage to London, where it is uplinked to satellites and downlinked by individual broadcasters.
"What they do with it is up to them," said Hoyt. "ABC has a lot of money and a lot of options. PBS is going to rely pretty much on this broadcast."
Tom Yellin, one of three executive producers at ABC, agreed: ABC has a lot of options and is going to exercise them.
"This is the single most ambitious program ever produced by anybody and I say that without hesitation," he said. "We have deployed the whole of all the resources of ABC News."
ABC will deploy its personnel and personalities all over the world, including Barbara Walters in Paris, with an eye toward doing engaging segments.
ABC, said Yellin, hopes that the viewer "will be entertained and be informed and reflect at the same time. We're going for deep meaning at the same time we want people to be amused."
Both ABC and PBS will begin their telecasts at 4:50 a.m. ET in the South Pacific at the Polynesian islands of Kiribati, then go to Mount Hakepa on Pitt Island, where residents will honor their Maori past by lighting a torch, placing it in a canoe and sending it out to sea. In New Zealand, all 70 maternity hospitals will have cameras to record the millennium's first newborn.
Hoyt said his program is "structured so that the celebration is at the top of the hour, for 10 minutes -- five before the hour, five after. Then there are other segments in daylight from other parts of the world."
Among the international entertainers whose performances will be covered by the consortium are Annie Lennox from the new Millennium Dome in Greenwich, England; Jean-Michel Jarre from the pyramids in Cairo; and the Manic Street Preachers from Cardiff, Wales.
Composer Tan Dun's "2000 Today -- A World Symphony for the Millennium," will be played periodically throughout the telecast. Written specifically for this event, it is performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, London Voices, New London Children's Choir and soprano Susan Botti.
Hoyt said the first entertainment contribution from PBS will be from New Orleans's Storyville District, where jazz pianist Allen Toussaint will explain that earlier that day the city had a jazz funeral parade to bury the old millennium.
ABC's entertainment segments will feature Ray Charles, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, Harry Connick Jr., 'N Sync, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffett, Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart, Enrique Iglesias, Phish, Los Lobos, Natalie Merchant, Jon Secada, Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bocelli, the Bee Gees, Aerosmith, Tito Puente, Sheila E. and Roger Daltrey, among others.
And one of ABC's acts, of course, will be the eternal Dick Clark. From 11:35 p.m. to 1 a.m., ABC will air "Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve."
"He's an icon," said Yellin. "We intend to integrate him into all the other things we're doing."
Hoyt said PBS will head toward midnight with the Gipsy Kings' multilingual version of Bob Marley's "One Love," featuring Ziggy Marley, Tsidii Le Loka and The Boys Choir of Harlem. Then, he said, PBS will switch to Times Square, also using tape of what Hoyt calls "the midnight moment" in the East: Miami, Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls, Panama, Lima, Peru and Chile's Easter Island.
Hoyt said he'll be at New York's WNET, the U.S. control center. Bruce Mundt is producer of "PBS Millennium 2000," which will originate from Atlantic Video studios here.
WETA plans to carry the entire 25-hour package. MPT will break from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to offer Louis Rukeyser's year-end show and other news programs. WHUT joins at 8 a.m. Friday and signs off at 2 a.m. Saturday.
For ABC's 24-hour telecast, Peter Jennings will host reports starting with James Walker at midnight in Wellington, New Zealand, and moving to Elizabeth Vargas in Sydney, Australia. Other ABC News reports will come from Paris, London, Rome, Shanghai, Havana, Canada, Tanzania, Moscow, Cairo, Kosovo, Rio de Janeiro, Djibouti, Bombay, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Other reports will come from New York, Washington, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago and Tucson as well as Orlando, Fla.; Vail, Colo.; Pasadena, Calif.; and New Hampshire.
In Virginia, Lisa Stark will report on air traffic from the Federal Aviation Administration, and Jack Smith will be at America Online tracking Y2K problems.
"The thing that's hard to capture in words is the scope of this," said Yellin. "It's not just unique, it's unprecedented by a factor of 10."
Coverage begins at 5 a.m. Friday with hourly updates on New Year observances and Y2K developments. Reports will come from 16 U.S. cities including New York, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Washington, where Robert Hager will report from the Y2K briefing center, David Bloom and Claire Shipman from the White House, Jim Miklaszewski from the Pentagon and Bob Kur from the FAA in Herndon, Va.
Foreign coverage begins in the South Pacific, including New Zealand, and moves to Australia, Asia, Russia, the Middle East and across Europe, where Jodi Applegate will anchor reports from England, Paris, the Vatican and Berlin.
At 9 p.m., Katie Couric and Tom Brokaw's news special will cover Y2K developments and entertainment nationwide. At 11:35 p.m. ET, an abbreviated "Tonight Show" will air live, then the network will return to New York for the ball drop in Times Square and a laser and fireworks display and continue covering U.S. celebrations until 3:30 a.m.
At 10 p.m. Friday, CBS will carry "America's Millennium: A Celebration," then break for 11 p.m. news and resume coverage from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. The production will focus on New Year's Eve on the Mall, where Will Smith is hosting with Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Rogers, Jack Nicholson and President and Mrs. Clinton, among others. The telecast will include Celine Dion in Montreal and a short film by Steven Spielberg, with a score by John Williams, that focuses on the United States's achievements during the last century.
Britt Hume and Paula Zahn host Friday at 11 p.m., with reports from London, Moscow and Bethlehem; updates from the federal Y2K briefing center here; performances by the Neville Brothers in Las Vegas and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Los Angeles. Fox also checks in at Roswell, N.M.
Composer Glen Roven's "Dona Nobis Pacem" (Let There Be Peace), recorded in 12 languages, is the theme song for "Millennium Live . . . A New World's Eve," another global production beginning at 6 a.m. in Fiji and ending 24 hours later in Hawaii. More than 150 countries are participating in the event, which airs here on Pax TV (Channel 66).
MSNBC begins more than 30 hours of coverage at 4:30 a.m. Friday, including a special from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Computer and utility experts will follow any Y2K problems world-wide.
Univision begins at 6 a.m. with "Feliz Milenio!," a 24-hour event from a Spanish-speaking consortium.
MTV will have an eight-hour party from Times Square starting at 5 p.m. Friday.
Disney Channel begins its "Zoog2K: Zoogin' New Yearz Eve Party" at 6:30 p.m. Friday, continuing into Saturday.