Advertised as "a realistic depiction of fictional events," the harrowing speculative drama Special Bulletin was shot on videotape and staged as an actual late-breaking news event. The story concerns a group of anti-nuclear activists who take over the waterfront of Charleston, South Carolina. The group wants the 968 nuclear warheads located in the Charleston area to be disarmed immediately; if this demand is not met, the activists will detonate their own nuclear device. Written by Marshall Herskovitz and directed by Ed Zwick (who would later collaborate on the TV series thirtysomething), the Emmy-winning Special Bulletin first aired on March 20, 1983. This initial broadcast was accompanied by repeated disclaimers, assuring the audience that what was transpiring on their TV screens was not really happening. Even so, the production was so authentic-looking (right down to the fabricated previews of upcoming network dramatic programs) that thousands of panicky viewers called in to NBC, demanding further information on the siege of Charleston.
by Hal Erickson synopsis