I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!
~ Howard Beale in Network
Network was a sensation in 1976 (the film is rated R), and it holds true to our world today, some forty years later. Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is at the end of his career as a news anchor on UBS television network. He has a breakdown on air, and to the surprise of network executives, the ratings skyrocket.
Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) is an ambitious woman striving to make a name for herself in network programming, and she will stop at nothing until she gets the ratings higher. She pitches an idea to the execs, including Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall), about Howard being let loose live on air, and sets about having an affair with a network exec, married man Max Schumacher (William Holden). His wife Louise (Beatrice Straight) confronts Max when he tells her he is in love with another woman, and it is her great delivery of her lines and emotions that no doubt scored her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.
Other Academy Awards given out for Network were Best Actor and Actress for Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway, and Best Original Screenplay for Paddy Chayefsky. Peter Finch was the first posthumous winner honored by the Academy.
Howard’s diatribes on air are like a bad reality show. The only difference from today is it’s not scripted, and he’s speaking the truth, truth that unfortunately still rings true. Television has become a propaganda machine, influencing everything about life in America; what to buy, whom to love or hate, what candidates to support, and we know some stations deliver this garbage more than others. Corporations run the world, a statement made more than once in Network, and that is exactly who is running the world today. They buy political candidates and have nothing but greed and profit as their goals.
The CEOs are as evil as you can get, and we see them in Network. It doesn’t help that people like Diana succumb to the power and applause from her peers so that she sells out Howard, and makes a mockery of the evening news.
There is a narrator who bookends and provides commentary on the rise and fall of Howard Beale. The dialogue is overwritten (real people don’t speak like that), but the message of the film remains strong.
I suggest you watch Network. After you watch it, find the series The Newsroom on whatever streaming or DVD service you use. It is a contemporary take on the network news written by the brilliant screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. It aired for three seasons (25 episodes) and stars Jeff Daniels, Dev Patel, and other fine actors. They take real news situations and deliver the news like it should be delivered, ethically and responsibly, without bias or moneyed interests dictating how to report events. The Newsroom shows how real investigative journalism should be done prior to it becoming the evening news.