BrokenTV Movie Club: Special Bulletin (1983)

This is something quite special. Special Bulletin was a TV movie broadcast on NBC in 1983, depicting a threat from US-based intellectual-pacifist terrorist cell to detonate a nuke in a Charleston harbour. At this point you might be mentally composing a Photoshopped screen-grab plastered with the words PACIFISM FAIL, but bear with us. The twist is, all events are relayed through simulated live rolling news coverage from the fictional RBS Network. It's all put together very well, being shot on video as opposed to film in order to capture that newsy feel more accurately, and it even opens with a authentically 1983-ish promo for forthcoming shows being interrupted by a - hey! - special bulletin.

On the original broadcast, it was deemed realistic enough to warrant disclaimers after each commercial break reminding viewers that events aren't real, along with the occasional on-screen "Dramatization" caption, lest it kick off a huge War Of The Worlds-style panic. All we'll say is: we dipped into it out of curiosity, and ended up sticking engrossedly with it, right to the end. Why, at several points our traditionally cynical expressions melted away to make room for something approaching actual concern for the participants. Enjoy, and try not to let your suspension of disbelief drop as soon as you realise one of the terrorists is played by David "Sledge Hammer/Warmongering Senator From In The Loop" Rasche.



Oh, and try not to get distracted by the Washington correspondent who looks a bit like Dan Rather, but who isn't Dan Rather. While the whole thing is slightly deflated by a couple of aspects (one being the slightly histrionic performance of Kathryn Walker as co-anchor, the other we're not mentioning, but you'll spot it), it's otherwise a decidedly engrossing depiction of what such coverage possibly would have been like at the time. We could go on about it some more, but it's the sort of film where seeing events unfold without knowing too much in advance - and being able to make comparisons with how such events would be reported now - really adds to your enjoyment. Oh, and a quick nod to the splendid SOTCAA forum, which is where we read about it.

2 comments:

M said...

Well, that was really rather good. Always liked the 'fictional documentary' thing as a storytelling device. I seem to remember watching something similar on Channel 5 years back, except that was about an asteroid strike that turned out to be aliens.
I was kind of surprised to see Edward Zwick's name in the credits.

Kids Music said...

Your blog is like an encyclopedia for those who want to know more about this. Thanks for the interesting information.