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30 years ago today: 'The Day After' shocks American TV viewers



Oh,  you remember November 20, 1983. You probably nearly jumped out a window, cried yourself to sleep or had your very first cardiac event. It was the day ABC broadcasted The Day After.

Starring Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, Steve Guttenberg and John Lithgow, The Day After was the fictional account of World World 3, set in Lawrence, Kan., and portrayed entirely through TV and radio broadcasts. Sort of like War of the Worlds on steroids. On the Sunday it was broadcast, TV stations actually had counselors standing by on 1-800 hotlines to deal with delirious TV viewers. Hell, I was one of the delirious viewers, home alone and freaking out. So much for college! I'm going to war!

In case you've forgotten...


1. Immediately after its original broadcast, The Day After was followed by a special live discussion between scientist Dr. Carl Sagan and William F. Buckley.

2. Director Nicholas Meyer claims he suffered severe flu-like symptoms throughout the making of this film. Doctors eventually determined that Meyer was suffering from severe clinical depression, brought on by facing the horrors of nuclear war in such depth.

3. No sponsors bought commercial time after the point in the movie where the nuclear war occurs, so the last half of the show was aired straight through, without commercials.

4. Producers transformed Lawrence, Kan., into a nuclear wasteland for several weeks, knocking out windows in storefronts, placing burnt cars throughout the streets. More than 2,000 Lawrence residents, including University of Kansas students, were used as extras and were paid $50 to shave their heads bald and act as if they were dying of radiation sickness. They were asked not to bathe during the aftermath scenes to add authenticity to the movie.

5. The U.S. Department of Defense co-operated with the film's production on condition that it be made clear in the story that the Soviets, and not the United States, launched their missiles first.



[Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 4:22pm]


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