Born in the affluent, northeast Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Illinois, filmmaker/journalist Edward Zwick received his formal training in the cinematic arts at the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles. After stints as a journalist and editor at The New Republic and Rolling Stone, Zwick worked on the hit ABC series Family as story editor, scripter, director and producer. Launched in early March 1976, this low-key prime time soaper about the bourgeois, Pasadena-based Lawrence family - Doug (James Broderick), Kate (Sada Thompson), Nancy (Meredith Baxter-Birney), Willie (Gary Frank) and Buddy (Kristy McNichol) - became an instant hit and lasted several seasons, before wrapping in the summer of 1980.
After helming the made-for-TV screwball comedy Having it All (1982), starring Dyan Cannon, and the hit small screen meller Paper Dolls, a telemovie about a nepotistic, NY-based modeling and cosmetics dynasty (which spun off an unsuccessful series in fall 1984, to which Zwick was unconnected). Zwick teamed (in what would be the first in an endless series of collaborations) with Marshall Herskovitz, to co-produce the innovative 1983 telemovie Special Bulletin. This low-budget drama examines how a (South Carolina-based) local news station might respond to the imminent threat of a nuclear war by five terrorist protesters. Zwick directed, and to enhance the realism, shot the motion picture on video tape, consulting extensively with NBC news correspondents for technical advice.