The repeat showing of the television movie 'Special Bulletin' by NBC provoked a deluge of calls to police and broadcasters nationwide, despite disclaimers that the network ran during the telecast, officials said Monday.
Some callers criticized the network, which first showed the movie in March 1983, for rerunning it Sunday night, but others expressed concern the docu-drama of terrorists with a nuclear device in Charleston, S.C., was real.
'I thought the whole thing was happening -- the terrorists, the hostages, the nuclear bomb, everything,' said Debra Pough, a 25-year-old college student from Chicago. 'I still can't believe it was a movie. It was really frightening.'
NBC-owned stations serving New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland and San Francisco received 1,256 calls compared to 2,181 during and after the first broadcast, a network spokesman said.
Calls also poured into Charleston, where Southern Bell Telephone Co. reported its circuits were overloaded during the first hour the movie was shown.
'One man called from Dallas offering to help the negotiations,' a Charleston Coast Guard Base spokesman said.
WCIV-TV, NBC's Charleston affiliate, received 50 to 60 calls, said Station Manager Celia Shaw. Most of the callers were either displeased the movie was being rerun or were local residents whose out-of-town relatives were concerned about the city's safety and telephoned them.
WSTM-TV in Syracuse, N.Y., logged five telephone calls from viewers, four more than during the original showing.
One woman was upset because her husband was flying to South Carolina and 'she wanted to make sure he wasn't flying into a tragedy,' said News Director Steve Hammel.
The problem was compounded at WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee where 38 calls were received. A tornado watch prompted the station to broadcast several severe weather bulletins during the movie, and viewers might have been confused. WTMJ President Michael McCormick refused to air 'Special Bulletin' last year for fear some viewers would think the movie was real.
'This morning, my neighbor yelled out, 'Mel, that was scary as hell. Good program,' said Mel Linkous, program director of WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Va.
Linkous received four calls at home from viewers who thought the movie was was scary, but none of them objected or questioned his station's decision to air it, he said.
A spokesman for WMAQ-TV in Chicago said the station received about 100 calls from viewers who asked if the event in the movie was actually occurring.
WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio, needed extra people to man the telephones during the initial broadcast, but this time no one called, a station spokesman said.