In the 1970s, terrorist violence is the stuff of networks' nightly news programming and the corporate structure of the UBS Television Network is changing. Meanwhile, Howard Beale, the aging UBS news anchor, has lost his once strong ratings share and so the network fires him. Beale reacts in an unexpected way. We then see how this affects the fortunes of Beale, his coworkers (Max Schumacher and Diana Christensen), and the network.Written by
Bruce Janson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Faye Dunaway managed to put aside their earlier clashes and enjoy an apparently cordial relationship with William Holden. She claimed that during the shooting of the new film, "I found him a very sane, lovely man." See more »
Every one of Howard Beale's shows has the same studio audience (note the man in the black vest, with long hair and a beard). See more »
This story is about Howard Beale, who was the news anchorman on UBS TV. In his time, Howard Beale had been a mandarin of television, the grand old man of news, with a HUT rating of 16 and a 28 audience share. In 1969, however, his fortunes began to decline. He fell to a 22 share. The following year, his wife died, and he was left a childless widower with an 8 rating and a 12 share. He became morose and isolated, began to drink heavily, and on September 22, 1975, he was fired, ...
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In 1976 when this film came out, there was no cable television, no internet, no cell phones. All that existed, apart from newspapers and radio, were three or four "broadcast" television channels. Since then, technology has exploded with a cornucopia of communication devices. Which renders the story in "Network" painfully dated. And yet ...
The story's theme is as valid now as it was thirty-three years ago. The theme is that the ratings business has corrupted television, because ad revenue, and therefore profit, is tied to the ratings. Programs and events then, and now, get aired if, and only if, they are likely to result in high ratings. It's all very seamy, very dishonorable, very shabby, and very relevant to today's world of ten thousand channels.
Though most of the characters in "Network" end up being corrupted by television, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is one who does not. His vision is pure. And he speaks the truth: "... television is an ... amusement park ... a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of ... story tellers ... jugglers, sideshow freaks ... and football players ... You're never going to get any truth from us (television) ... We lie like hell ... We deal in illusions, none of it is true. But you people ... believe the illusions ... You do whatever the tube tells you ... you even think like the tube". Worse yet, people elect their leaders based on how they look and sound, and how their words are interpreted by boob tube "pundits".
"Network" is a film wherein thematic import is conveyed almost entirely through dialogue. Some of the dialogue devolves into speechifying, which may come across to viewers as preachy. Still, the film's message was highly prophetic. Except for the film's climax, everything predicted in this film has already happened. And credit should go to script writer Paddy Chayefsky for his futuristic vision.
Some parts of the film seem superfluous in retrospect, like the romance between two main characters. But the film has a sense of realism, helped along by the use of technical jargon and a general absence of background music. The film's technical elements, including direction, casting, acting, editing, and cinematography, are fine.
As social commentary, "Network" is one of the best films ever made, despite a dated, time-bound, story. That "there are no nations, only currency" is becoming increasingly obvious, and as Ned Beatty's arrogant character explains in a frighteningly ominous tone: "The world is a business, Mr. Beale".
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