Lou Grant: Season 5, Episode 20

Unthinkable (3 May 1982)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
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Tensions in the tiny Middle Eastern country Kular awakens the fear of nuclear war into a lot of people. Billie covers the recovery of a burn victim following the crash of a school bus.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Bannon ...
Lane Smith ...
Dr. Lawrence
Marian Hume
Warren J. Kemmerling ...
General Sutherland (as Warren Kemmerling)
Dean Santoro ...
Ivan Bonar ...
Foreign Editor


Tensions in the tiny Middle Eastern country Kular awakens the fear of nuclear war into a lot of people. Billie covers the recovery of a burn victim following the crash of a school bus.

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Release Date:

3 May 1982 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:


| (DeLuxe)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This show about the possibility of a nuclear war breaking out was heavily hyped by CBS-TV, which up to this point had desperately wanted to keep the highly acclaimed "Lou Grant" on the schedule for the following season -- until the ratings came in. The numbers -- a 10.3 rating and and 18 share -- don't mean much to audiences in the 21st century, which no longer counts percentages of homes tuned into the show -- but they were unbelievably bad for 1982, below the ratings of numerous already-canceled shows and about even with the playing-out-the-string "Mork and Mindy." CBS gave up on "Lou Grant" and canceled it as soon as the programming chief read the numbers and walked around the corporate offices (he later said even his proposal for a 13-show half season drew no supporters), running two more shows in May and two more in late summer just to burn them off. See more »


Charlie Hume: Phil, what's the feeling on the foreign desk about Kular?
Foreign Editor: Eh, don't drink the water. Or the Oil.
See more »


Up, Up and Away
Written by Jimmy Webb
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User Reviews

Lou Grant's version of "Duck and Cover"
9 June 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Many episodes of LOU GRANT have held up well over time, but others now seem laughingly dated, no more so than "Unthinkable" (#5.20).

The plot revolves around an uprising in an imaginary Middle-Eastern country which may trigger a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR.

We're treated to all the usual discussions and lectures about the horrors of nuclear war, stories of how children around the world are having nightmares about bombs, and a sub- story about the results of radiation burns (which ties in to another burn story covered by Billie).

The biggest concern about the Mid-East is that "Marxists" might take over the country. Not a mention about radical jihadists, which we'd hear today. It's all about the evil Russians! This aired in April 1982. They would have been surprised to see that within a few years, the Cold War would be over (for the time being), and plots like this one would be obsolete. This episode could be put in a film festival along with those silly "duck and cover" Civil Defense movies from the 1950s.

As with many LOU GRANT episodes, this one ends unresolved. The sub-story has a sad ending (if you read between the lines of the final conversation) and the world is still at war. But as is typical in TV, by next week it will all have been forgotten!

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