As fear of nuclear war mounts, this documentary shows change is possible

Television Event trailer


“My team produced this film in the hopes of waking up the public, so we don’t sleepwalk into the apocalypse.”
— Jeff Daniels, Director of Television Event

In his final book a few years ago, the late Daniel Ellsberg, a high-level advisor to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in the 1960s, described current U.S. nuclear war planning as a form of “institutionalized madness” that could easily lead to accidental global annihilation.¹

As brutal wars in Ukraine, Gaza, the Middle East, and beyond now raise the risk of nuclear war to even higher levels,² a riveting new documentary about a remarkable TV movie that forced U.S. and Soviet leaders to the negotiating table at the height of the Cold War provides reason for hope.
Television Event, from award-winning filmmaker Jeff Daniels, tells the unlikely and inspiring story of the making of The Day After, a harrowing 1983 TV movie about an apocalyptic nuclear strike on the U.S. that was watched by over 100 million Americans and helped inspire historic arms-control agreements between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Television Event is now available to purchase in a variety of formats. If you’d like to book a public screening of the film, please fill out this form and we’ll get back to you soon.

At once darkly funny and deadly serious, Television Event is an excellent resource for educators and activists looking to raise awareness about the heightening risks of nuclear war and the madness of current nuclear deterrence policy. Ideal for courses that focus on American history, militarism and war, U.S. politics, political communication, cultural studies, media studies, and media production.

Last week the Biden administration announced, for the first time, that it will allow Ukraine to use U.S. weapons to strike targets inside Russia, escalating the risk of nuclear war to its highest point in decades.¹ But are the American people paying attention?

That’s precisely the question that motivated award-winning documentary filmmaker Jeff Daniels to produce Television Event, which tells the remarkable story of the making of The Day After, a 1983 TV movie about nuclear war that transfixed the nation and helped bring the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the negotiating table.

“My team produced this film in the hopes of waking up the public, so we don’t sleepwalk into the apocalypse,” Daniels said. “The Day After proved that, however polarized we may be ideologically, we can still come together, inform ourselves, and act to prevent the obscene devastation caused by nuclear weapons.”

Television Event is now available to purchase in a variety of formats. If you’d like to book a public screening of the film, please fill out this form and we’ll be back in touch.

At once darkly funny and deadly serious, Television Event is a superb resource for educators and activists looking to raise awareness about the accelerating threat of nuclear war, the absurdity of current nuclear deterrence policy, and the inspiring history of the anti-nuclear movement. Perfect for courses that examine:

  • Politics and pop culture
  • U.S. militarism and war
  • American mass media
  • Media production
  • Social change movements
  • Television history
  • Propaganda and public opinion

1. “The US tests Putin’s nuclear threats in Ukraine,” by Joshua Keating, Vox, Jun 5, 2024




“By turns horrifying, incisive, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, Television Event chronicles the efforts of an unlikely group of writers, directors, actors, and producers to make a film graphically representing the impact of nuclear war on a midwestern community. By vividly documenting the massive constraints on making commercial media critical of militarism and the Cold War arms race, this film highlights the continued importance of media-making that challenges war-making by asking us to confront the impact of war on the civilian populations that must pay its price.”

— Carol A. Stabile | Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Oregon and author of The Broadcast 41: Women and the Anti-Communist Blacklist

“This absorbing documentary returns us to an extraordinary moment in the politics and popular culture of 1980s America … Fast-paced and gripping, Television Event explores not only the story behind The Day After‘s unlikely production and its searing impact on television viewers, but also its influence on Ronald Reagan himself, who pivoted from endorsing the idea of a limited nuclear war to the realization that such a war must never come to pass. A powerful film about how culture can shape history.”

— Natasha P. Zaretsky, author of Radiation Nation: Three Mile Island and the Political Transformation of the 1970s

Television Event is a compelling account of a unique moment of intersection in the history of American entertainment and US foreign policy. It shows how a small group of storytellers dramatized the reality of nuclear war and rallied a country and its president to embrace change. Moving in its own right, Television Event deserves a wide audience and a place in contemporary discussion of how entertainment should respond to the global challenges of our times.”

— Nicholas J Cull, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

“At a time when fears of international conflicts escalating to nuclear war are again rising, Television Event delivers a powerful reminder of how a controversial 1983 movie galvanized many Americans and helped to move the United States and the Soviet Union away from the brink of a dangerous confrontation. The Day After became a classroom topic across America in the early 1980s. It deserves to be discussed in classes again today, and Television Event offers a much-needed spur.”

— David Foglesong, Professor of History at Rutgers University and author of The American Mission and the “Evil Empire”

“An absolutely riveting, highly entertaining and important story of the 1983 ABC TV movie, The Day After. … This documentary is not only a remarkable, often oddly funny, look at the broadcast network machinations at the time, but also a game-changing show business event that directly affected then-President Ronald Reagan and his whole attitude towards the possibility of a nuclear holocaust.”

—Deadline Hollywood

“A blast. Witty, moving, and engaging … Taps into the heightened anxiety over U.S.-Soviet tensions, the growing nuclear stockpiles that went with them, and the response of the Reagan administration to The Day After’s anti-nukes message.”

—The Hollywood Reporter

“A riveting study of a landmark film. … The documentary examines the influence of The Day After, with Reagan screening it at Camp David, profoundly shaken by the viewing experience, helping to change his vision for a catastrophic arms race with the Soviet Union. And there’s the national conversation the endeavor created, unthinkable in this day and age, inspiring global awareness of a horrific issue. Television Event is a crisply made reminder of such an incredible feat of dramatic power and programming bravery.”


“As entertaining as it is profound … a gem of an historical document. Amazing to think, in our current age of social media, that TV mattered in such a way. But it did, and thanks to Daniels and his marvelous Television Event, we see the evidence. Lights, camera, boom!”

—Hammer to Nail