Apocalypse Television: How ‘The Day After’ Helped End the Cold War

Applause. Nov. 2023. 248p. ISBN 9781493079179. $36.95. TV
Former TV producer Craig (communications, Univ. of Southern California) uses his Hollywood experience to interpret behind-the-scenes planning for the 1983 three-hour ABC movie The Day After. Many baby boomers recall this mass-mediated experience that depicted the would-be effect on their lives in the aftermath of a nuclear war. With 100 million viewers, it’s still the most-viewed TV movie in history, causing the political right and left, Reagan White House, and Gorbachev-era Soviet Union to all take part in an international discussion. Craig gives ABC’s movie division head at the time, Brandon Stoddard, requisite credit for getting the film made and aired, and Ted Koppel kudos for refereeing the discussion that immediately followed. This book joins previous works—Ronald Reagan and His Quest To Abolish Nuclear Weapons by Paul Lettow and Reagan’s Secret War by Martin and Annelise Anderson—correcting a misinformed image and amplifying a more accurate assessment of the president as committed to arms reduction, beyond mere control.
VERDICT This study for both general and academic readers makes the case for the cultural influence of television in altering attitudes toward war, albeit at a fortunate time in history before the dispersive effects of cable television.
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