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." 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 Jerry Springer's talk-show fisticuffs, it's every bit as potent now as it was when the film was released in 1976. And because Chayefsky was one of the greatest of all dramatists, his Oscar-winning script about the ratings frenzy at the cost of cultural integrity is a showcase for powerhouse acting by Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight (who each won Oscars), and Oscar nominee William Holden in one of his finest roles. Finch plays a veteran network anchorman who's been fired because of low ratings. His character's response is to announce he'll kill himself on live television two weeks hence. What follows, along with skyrocketing ratings, is the anchorman's descent into insanity, during which he fervently rages against the medium that made him a celebrity. Dunaway plays the frigid, ratings-obsessed producer who pursues success with cold-blooded zeal; Holden is the married executive who tries to thaw her out during his own seething midlife crisis. Through it all, Chayefsky (via Finch) urges the viewer to repeat the now-famous mantra "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" to reclaim our humanity from the medium that threatens to steal it away.--Jeff Shannon