TV World;NEWLN:ABC sets firm date for detailed nuclear war drama


NEW YORK -- Three years of development and one premiere cancellation later, ABC Entertainment now plans a November air date for its unrelentingly graphic drama about the nuclear destruction of an American city.

Brandon Stoddard, president, ABC Motion Pictures, Inc., announced Monday that 'The Day After,' which depicts the nuclear destruction of Kansas City, Mo., and the effects it has on survivors in nearby Lawrence, Kan., will be shown Nov. 20.


Stoddard said the $7 million, 2 -hour movie probably would be shown regardless of commercial sales.

'The air date has been set as of today and I suspect that whatever shape we're in it's going to go on the air,' he said in a telephone interview from Hollywood.

He said it still had not been determined whether the network would sell commercial time for the second hour of the movie -- the period depicting life after the bomb has been dropped.


'This film will provide an unrelenting and detailed view of a nuclear attack on the United States and what the effects might be on average citizens living in Kansas, far removed from political origins or explanations,' Stoddard said.

Edward Hume, who wrote the original teleplay following six months of research, based much of his scenario on a congressional study by the office of Technology Assessment titled 'The Effects of Nuclear War.'

Cast members include Jason Robards, Jobeth Williams, Bibi Besch, John Cullum and John Lithgow.

ABC Entertainment initially had planned to air the movie last May, but Stoddard said it didn't go on the air 'because I really felt the picture needed additional work.

'I think it is the most important movie we've ever done,' Stoddard said, 'and we wanted to present it properly to maximize the audience.'

While promotion campaigns for most television films begin just days before the viewing time, Stoddard said advertising for 'The Day After' probably will begin three weeks to a month beforehand.

'Between 'The Winds of War' and 'Thornbirds' we really didn't have enough time to spend on it,' Stoddard said referring to the two hit mini-series ABC had last season.

Since last May, 'The Day After' has been cut from a 3-hour to a 2-hour movie. Stoddard, who has personally been working on 'The Day After' for more than a year, said he did not believe anything significant had been cut out.


'We found in doing the movie that its strength is in keeping the idea clean -- staying with the central point of view: nuclear war is terrible.'

The movie, Stoddard said, does not express a political point of view. The country from which the bomb originates is not named.

Since the movie has been in the making, numerous pirated tapes have been springing up -- something Stoddard said he hadn't seen happen since 'half-way through the first week of 'Roots,' when every cassette disappeared.'

'We found out about some additional people who saw it over the weekend,' Stoddard said. 'I don't know where the tapes came from and I don't know what they are seeing because the movie's going through such a long metamorphosis.'

Stoddard said he hoped to see the final version Monday night.

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Monday held its sixth Annual Engineering Emmy Awards, honoring nine firms or individuals for their work in nine categories.

The Emmys presented at a New York ceremony were as follows:

-Recorder-Camera Combinations: RCA Broadcast Systems.

-Establishment of an International Standard for Digital Encoding of TV Signal in the Studio: International Radio Consultative Committee of I.T.U.; The European Broadcasting Union; and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.


-Magnetic Media Audio and Visual: The 3M Company; Mel Sater.

-Real Time Dgital Effects: AMPEX Corporation.

-Development of Electronic Graphic Creative System: Xerox Research Center; Richard Shoup.

Down the aisle, Mark Bernardo gave a demonstration of the Dubner Character Background Generator (CBG) which can reproduce pictures - still photographs, television video or hand-drawn -- by 'digitizing' them (turning them into numbers that can be used by a computer).

Looking like the star of CBS' upcoming new computer series, 'Whiz Kids,' the 27-year-old Bernardo, whose title is chief graphic design engineer, was the picture of a man who enjoys his work.

Glasses slipping down his nose, he tapped on a couple of keys to make appear on his TV screen a graphic depiction of 6,276-foot Mount Jahorina, the slope that will be used for the women's alpine events in Sarajevo.

'Tap, tap, tap,' a strip of slope rises up from the mountain, ready for a study of all its tricky bumps and ridges.

'Tap, tap, tap,' the words 'Coming up' are written by an unseen hand diagonally across the upper left-hand corner of the screen. 'Tap,' an animated picture of an event appears to the lower right. 'Tap, tap, tap,' the name of the event appears under the picture.


Tap a few more keys and the flags of any of the 154 nations participating in the Olympics can be brought to the screen.

All in bright colors -- up to 5,000 colors.

When 'the biggest television show in history' is over, ABC doesn't plan to just put the equipment in cold storage until the next Olympiad.

In the Air Control Room, some equipment will go to ABC-owned KGO-TV in San Francisco, where two new studios are being built. Other equipment will be used by ABC in New York, Barnathan said.

Waste not, want not, even on the Olympics.

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