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Nicholas Meyer's Movie Memories

Date: 02-26-10
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Nicholas Meyer, Open Lines

Filling in for George, Ian Punnett welcomed Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director Nicholas Meyer (book link) for a discussion that centered largely around his work on the 1983 made-for-TV production The Day After. The movie depicts the aftermath of a nuclear exchange between the United States and former Soviet Union, from the point of view of several residents of Lawrence, Kansas.

Meyer described his torturous dealings with television executives and censors as he toiled to film The Day After screenplay as it had been presented to him. Broadcast Standards and Practices asked him to cut a scene in which a derogatory term was used to describe a Japanese person, Meyer explained, as well as another scene that showed a girl purchasing a contraceptive device. The movie's controversial theme — the effects of nuclear war on individuals — eventually overshadowed the censor's minor quibbles.

Sponsors dropped their support for the program and the movie was aired with no commercial breaks after the initial bombing scene, Meyer said. Approximately 100 million Americans tuned into The Day After during its original broadcast, making it the most successful and highest rated TV movie for its time. According to Meyer, then-President Ronald Reagan even credited the film for changing his mind on the idea of winnable nuclear war.

Meyer also commented on the tragic death of Andrew Koenig, Growing Pains actor and son of Walter Koenig (Chekov on Star Trek), briefly talked about his work on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and waxed philosophical about end-of-the-Cold War metaphors in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

The remainder of the program was devoted to Open Lines.

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