Picks and Pans Review: Countdown to Looking Glass

updated 10/15/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/15/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sunday, Oct. 14, 8 p.m. ET)

There's nothing new under the rabbit ears. HBO has taken Special Bulletin, the TV movie about terrorists who nuked Charleston, S.C., and added elements of The Day After, plus a heavy dose of pretense, to concoct Looking Glass. Like Bulletin, it tells its story of nuclear horror through the cameras of a fictitious TV news show. But this time it's not terrorists who blow the bomb, it's the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Looking Glass is based on a "geopolitical scenario" created by an MIT professor and former adviser to the National Security Council: South American countries default on their U.S. loans, leading to a run on American banks and the collapse of a Middle Eastern economy, which leads to superpower, superweapon war. Details are revealed through endless interviews with Eric Sevareid, Gene McCarthy, Paul Warnke and other real people mixed in with the actors. All this is an effort to lend credibility to the show—but that loan, too, goes into default. For instance, after the waters around the carrier Nimitz are nuked, twice, a TV reporter stays on the air, broadcasting live and in glowing color. That's no more believable than the plot, which is too neatly contrived and lacks the one vital element in any drama: characterization. Looking Glass treats nukes and the people who control them as if they were sterile lines of data in some scenario-writing professor's computer. There's no life in the show, so it gives you no reason to mourn when what passes for it, feebly, is ended.

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