The Night That Panicked America is centered around Orson Welles' notorious "War of the Worlds" broadcast of October 30, 1938. Welles (Paul Shenar) arrives at CBS studios just in time to assume his directing post for the radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic, which has been updated and rewritten in the form of news bulletins. Unfortunately, millions of listeners tune in late and assume that the Earth is actually being invaded by Martians. This TV movie periodically cuts away from the broadcast in progress to concentrate on the panicky reactions of several listeners -- including a terrified mother (Eileen Brennan) who nearly kills her own children rather than allow them to fall into the tentacles of the Men From Mars. Advised of the panic, Welles is convinced that his career is over, but the ensuing publicity makes him nationally famous. As he absorbs the events of the evening, the hoodwinked radio fans crawl back sheepishly to the safety of their homes.