The Day After' Was World War III TV That Scared Even Reagan
In 1983, the TV movie The Day After brought a grim vision of nuclear holocaust into American living rooms when it aired on ABC. In the lead-up to the show, controversy brewed over the graphic depictions of Cold War destruction and its aftermath; in response, ABC set up a hotline for those disturbed by the movie, and convened a panel of celebrity experts to discuss the subject matter afterward. Did the show provide useful catharsis, or was it lurid sensationalism? It was both, though there is some evidence that The Day After made an impression on world leaders, including President Ronald Reagan. Whatever the case, it was a phenomenon unlike anything TV had seen, becoming the highest rated television film in history, a record that it held until 2009.