Thursday, September 28, 2006

Classic Movie Review: Network

With Aaron Sorkin's new show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip taking a dramatical look inside a live TV show, it is only appropriate that I review the movie Mr. Sorkin mentioned in his first episode: Network.

Network is about what happens when a news anchor has a meltdown on TV and due to it's high ratings, the big bosses decide to allow the anchor to continue his breakdown, each day. The network builds their rise to the top around this anchor, taking him out from behind his desk, having him beat his chest on a large soundstage, having a seer predict the news, and other odds and ends. This "shock TV" stance has the network start airing shows about a radical leftist terrorist group, all in a bid to grab ratings.

The most well known thing about this movie is the news anchor's, Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch), diatribe that starts off "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Of course, in a fitting bit of irony, in the movie, this actually becomes his "catchphrase." Suprisingly, the movie isn't really that focused on Beale, as he is more like a deus ex machina, a device to drive along the plot. The main focus is on Beale's former boss at the news department, Max Schumacher (William Holden), as he struggles to adapt to the changing TV landscape. He falls in love with the Faye Dunaway character, the person in charge of programming, and realizes he likes the old way better. Holden, Dunaway, and Beatrice Straight (who played Max's cuckold wife) all won Oscars for their performance. Unfortunately, Holden died before the ceremony.

People say that the movie, made in 1976, chillingly predicted what television is like today. I say that's not entirely true. While there is crass television on the set now, unlike the situation in Network, I think the major broadcasting companies but on that tripe out of laziness, not as a bid to grab ratings. In Network, at least the new shows and situations are original and far out. Today, everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. Although the programming was dumb, the executives in Network were smart (and ruthless). I don't know if I can say the same for today's TV head honchos.

All in all, the movie was an enjoyable experience, with the just right amount of ludicrousness and humor.

4 Boob Tubes out of 5.


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