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Pretty much what the network news looks like these days. This 1976 movie was way ahead of its time.

  • Jun 25, 2009
Rating:
+5
When Paddy Chayefsky's "Network" opened in theaters back in 1976 it created quite a stir all across America.  "Network" boasted an all-star cast that included such luminaries as William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty"Network" tells the story of the fledgling UBS network which due to insipid programming and increasingly lackluster ratings was widely considered to be an industry joke.  The ratings for "The UBS Evening News with Howard Beale" had been in freefall for quite some time and the network had quietly determined that its longtime anchor (played by Peter Finch) must be jettisoned and replaced by a younger, more vigorous individual.  It would fall upon Mr. Beale's best friend and head of the News Division Max Schumacher (William Holden) to break the news. To put it mildly, Howard Beale does not take this devastating news very well.  He promptly announces on the air that he intends to kill himself.  Furthermore, he indicates that he will do the deed on live television!   Beale is immediately taken off the air but the network ultimately allows him to return to the airwaves one last time to make a brief farewell statement.  Rather than merely saying goodbye Beale launches into an impassioned rant and declares that "life is bullshit" .  Clearly this ex-anchor had done gone crazy!
 
But not so fast!  UBS is bombarded with phone calls and telegrams.  Incredibly, Beale's diatribe had struck a nerve with the audience and sparked renewed interest in his newscast.  Enter the new head of UBS's entertainment division, a brash young woman named Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway)Christensen is convinced that the only way to revive UBS is to offer counter-culture programming. She enters into a power struggle with Max Schumacher for control of the nightly news and convinces the network to give Beale another shot.  But what Diana Christensen has in mind is unlike any newscast anyone had ever seen before.  Diana soon gets her way and promptly makes drastic changes to the newscast.  The program is now called “The Howard Beale Show” and Beale is given virtually free reign to rant and rave on virtually any topic he sees fit.  One of those rants “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” has become one of the most famous lines in motion picture history.  Other features are added to the show including a soothsayer and a pop culture segment called "Vox Populi".  Clearly the Entertainment division has gained control of the newscast much to the chagrin of Max Schumacher and his colleagues in the News Division.  Much of the remainder of this film focuses on the internal power struggle among the various factions for control of the network and on the complicated personal and professional relationship between Ms. Christensen and Max Schumacher.  Fascinating stuff!
 
Now why am I urging everyone under the age of 30 to make it a point to see “Network”?  I guess it’s because these folks probably never got to experience network news the way it used to be.  Back in the day network newscasts were pretty straightforward and largely unbiased.  You really had no idea what the politics of the anchor and the correspondents were.  That is the way it should be.  Keep in mind that “Network” was a fantasy.  Yet it seems clear that more than 30 years ago Paddy Chayefsky had a vision of what broadcast journalism might one day become.  I doubt that anyone who viewed “Network” over thirty years ago could have ever imagined that network news programs would one day devolve into what they have become today.  
 
“Network” remains one of my favorite movies of all-time.  There are many memorable performances in this film including those of Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall and most especially William Holden.  Obviously, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the courageous performance of Albert Finch in the role of Howard Beale.  Mr. Finch was quite ill at the time “Network” was filmed and would pass away a short time later.   Very highly recommended.  
Network 1 Pretty much what the network news looks like these days. This 1976 movie was way ahead of its time.

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November 13, 2009
Sad that I've never heard of this. This is certainly a good review to read/movie to see right now, especially since Lou Dobbs has just resigned! Very interesting. Thanks again, Drifter!
 
July 13, 2009
Thought it was an amazing "fantasy" when I first saw it in the late '70's... now scared to think how prescient it was. One to own!
 
June 26, 2009
Thanks for the info. I rented the film several years ago, (don't know why I haven't bought it yet) and it was just as good, if not better the as the first time I saw it. Outside of the content which is so prophetic, the acting is just superb. Faye Dunaway plays quite a role in that. By the way, I'm reading the book on Ted Sorensen.....will let you know more on that later.
 
June 25, 2009
I could not agree with you more, drifter! Especially since it's embarrassing when I say "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" and people reach for the phone to call 911 instead of look at me in glee and say, "I love that movie!!!" I would add, though, that newscasts in smaller towns are less sensationalistic and ratings-driven than newscasts in bigger cities. I don't know if they are more informative or offer a more comprehensive report of the issues, but they are certainly less showy.
June 29, 2009
haha! Well at least they have good taste! I saw a Youtube video of the opening credits for Zoom and some commenters thought that shows from the 70s were low tech and cheesy :(
 
June 25, 2009
Hi Paul......this is such a great film and I'm so glad you reviewed it. It's one I've wanted to own for a long time. There are some great scenes from this movie, most memorably the one between Bill Holden and his long-suffering wife. so real....believeable! You're correct in saying that everyone under 30 should view this film. It's a fantasy, all right, and unfortunately, this fantasy has become broadcasting's nightmare. Most of television news now is all hype, P.R. and useless rhetoric. When this film was released, I was just starting my career in televison and couldn't envision broadcasting turning into this charade...fast foward, however, 30 years and this is what we're subjected to on a daily basis. I do remember things changing a bit at that time, but I didn't think it would come this far.
 
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More Network (1976 movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . October 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Ultimately this is a scary movie (horror in the real sense not the gory kind). http://www.lunch.com/Reviews/movie/Network-1021596.html?cid=13
review by . February 16, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Story, satire, maturity, acting      Cons: Speechifying and Dunaway's screaming gets pretty old.      The Bottom Line: I think many will find the themes in this movie fit our present situation in an eerie way. It is well worth the time.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      No one gripes more about the wasteland of television (and when Network was released, …
review by . September 12, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
After almost 30 years, people continue to disagree about Network which received an Academy Award for best film. No one questions the quality of acting. Finch, Dunaway, and Straight received Academy Awards; Holden and Beatty were nominees. Rather, one of the volatile issues concerns Paddy Chayevsky's portrayal of network television in the 1970s. (FYI, Chayevsky received an Academy Award for best original screenplay.) How plausible is it, after forcing a news anchor to retire, to allow him to remain …
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Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #41
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Wiki

Network is a 1976 New Hollywood drama film about a fictional television network, Union Broadcasting System (UBS), and its struggle with poor ratings. It was written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, and stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty and Beatrice Straight. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.

Network has continued to receive recognition, decades after its initial release. In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2002, it was inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame as a film that has "set an enduring standard for American entertainment."[1] In 2006, Chayefsky's script was voted one of the top ten movie scripts of all-time by the Writers Guild of America, East. In 2007, the film was 64th among the Top 100 Greatest American Films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI gave it ten years earlier.

Media madness reigns supreme in screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky's scathing satire about the uses and abuses of network television. But while Chayefsky's and director Sidney Lumet's take on television may seem quaint in the age of "reality TV" and ...

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