Network is a 1976 American film, written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, that might just scare the living daylights out of you and make you stare at a wall for ten minutes. Network is a harsh, satirical critique of (among other things) television and the short-attention-span culture over which it presides, the media in general for rushing to serve the Lowest Common Denominator, the conglomerates who've homogenized American entertainment, and the executives who treat the nightly news as a profit center instead of a public service. It won four Academy Awards*
Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor for Peter Finch, Best Actress for Faye Dunaway, and Best Supporting Actress for Beatrice Straight.
, was added to the Library of Congress in 2000, and in 2007 was chosen by the American Film Institute as the 64th greatest American film ever made.The film's main story centers around Howard Beale (Peter Finch), an evening news anchor at struggling TV network Union Broadcasting System (UBS). After being given two weeks notice that he is being laid off, Beale announces on live TV that he is going to kill himself. UBS fires him immediately, but Max Schumacher (William Holden), the head of the news department and Beale's best friend, protests; the network ultimately decides to give Beale one last broadcast, presumably so he can have a dignified farewell. Beale takes this opportunity and runs with it by launching into an on-air rant about how life is "bullshit" — which causes his ratings to skyrocket, prompting UBS to immediately renew his contract. During a subsequent broadcast, Beale preaches to his audience with the now-famous line "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!", which soon becomes hismantra. UBS turns Beale's news program into a live talk show, with segments on gossip, astrology, and opinion polls — with Beale billed as the "mad prophet of the airwaves."In the meantime, network programming executive Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) decides to capitalize on Beale's success, convincing network president Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) and chairman Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) to merge the news and entertainment divisions — so that she can manage Beale's show — and create a new program, The Mao Tse-Tung Hour, aimed at the new audience that Beale is bringing in. In the meantime, she enters a relationship with Schumacher, who must choose between her and his wife Louise (Beatrice Straight).If you're searching for information on the various companies that broadcast television, see Networks.
Diana: You had less than a minute of hard national and international news. It was all sex, scandal, brutal crime, sports, children with incurable diseases, and lost puppies.
Bad Boss: Hackett. How bad is he? He orders Beale assassinated because his ratings aren't high enough.
Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The actual line from Howard Beale's rant is "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Often misquoted as "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" Also, Beale doesn't shout it out the window; only his viewers do, although their wording differs slightly... which makes this case of Beam Me Up, Scotty! understandable.
Black Comedy: For all its effective dramatic scenes, this is a brutally hilarious satire of the media that grows more prescient by the year.
Brick Joke: "What are we going to call it, The Mao Tse-Tung Hour?"
As a subtle Call Back: Max tells Howard a hilarious story about jumping out of bed, throwing his raincoat over his pajamas and rushing to report on a bridge. Guess what Howard Beale wears when he delivers his famous speech?
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Frank Hackett couldn't care less about the condition of Howard Beale (or anyone else) as long as the ratings keep coming in. When Diana is asked whether she and Hackett are having an affair, she laughs it off with "Frank Hackett has no loves, lusts or allegiances that are not directly related to becoming a CCA board member. I'm not even a stockholder."
Deadline News: Beale threatens to kill himself during a live news broadcast. Later, the network executives have Beale assassinated on-air since his ratings are declining and the chairman refuses to cancel his show.
Downer Ending: "This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings."
I would like at this moment to announce that I will be retiring from this program in two weeks time because of poor ratings. Since this show is the only thing I had going for me in my life, I've decided to kill myself. I'm going to blow my brains out right on this program a week from today. So tune in next Tuesday. That should give the public relations people a week to promote the show. You ought to get a hell of a rating out of that. Fifty share, easy.
Executive Meddling: A fictional example. Jensen convinces Beale to drop his fiery populist message due to the fact that he's railing against a merger of CCA (the corporation that owns UBS) with a Saudi Arabian conglomerate — a merger that the deeply-in-debt UBS needs to stay afloat.
All he really does is explain his own philosophy in terms Beale instantly accepts. The message is still just as fiery, he just switches sides.
Foreshadowing: In the first five minutes Beale and Schumacher joke about putting murders, suicides and terrorists on the air.
He Who Fights Monsters: Laureen Hobbes, though she despises capitalist organizations, agrees to work with UBS to spread the communist message and get money for the party. By the end of the film, her group has become so intertwined with the network that it's hard to tell the two apart.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Max says that the younger woman he's having an affair with can only relate to reality through television. She imagines their affair as a drama/tragedy, but he doesn't know if she expects a happy ending where he returns to his wife or not. He says all this in a conversation with his wife two-thirds of the way through the movie, which he refers to as the second act of a drama.
Diana: Hi. I'm Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the imperialist ruling circles.
Laureen: I'm Laureen Hobbs, a badass commie nigger.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Mary Anne Gifford and her captors, the Ecumenical Liberation Army, bear a suspicious resemblance to Patty Hearst and her kidnappers, the Symbionese Liberation Army. Similarly, Laureen Hobbs stands in for 70s communist firebrand Angela Davis.
Diana is rumored to be based on a television exec at the time who obsessed over ratings every minute of the day.
Only in It for the Money: After beginning the movie as a dyed-in-the-wool communist, Laureen Hobbs has become this by the end.
It's a strange example, because she's still a communist, but Diana convinces her that she can only advance her cause by gaining money and influence, which requires working with the network. Once she starts compromising with the corporate agenda, it tends to take over everything.
Only Sane Man: Schumacher to a degree, as even though he too is a flawed character he's one of the only people to recognize Beale's descent into madness and call out the network's exploitation of it.
Reality Show: The Mao Tse-Tung Hour, a show chronicling the exploits of a group of leftist domestic terrorists. One can argue that the film itself predicted the rise of the genre over two decades in advance.
Schumacher: You're television incarnate, Diana. Indifferent to suffering. Insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death. All the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You're madness, Diana. Virulent madness.
Louise delivers one to Max when he tells her about his ongoing affair with Diana. She rips him to pieces over his infidelity, but makes it clear that she still loves him. Max is obviously deeply wounded by her reaction.
Refuge in Audacity: Seemingly the entire raison d'etre of UBS' programming under Christensen.
Resignations Not Accepted: Howard tries to quit his job more than once, but he's not allowed to for various reasons. Until the network decides to kill him.
Running Gag: The scene in Diane's office where they're reading submitted pitches for television shows. You'll lose count of the times that characters are said to be either "brilliant", "beautiful" and "crusty but benign". Truth in Television, anyone?
Scary Black Man: The Great Ahmed Khan. Subverted in that he portrays himself as a criminal mastermind, but when he appears onscreen in person he's eating fried chicken and seems kind of dimwitted.
Or at least very laid-back, even during the big argument in the contract discussion, where he quietly pulls out a gun and fires into the air to shut everybody up, then calmly says "Give her the fucking overhead clause. Let's get to page twenty-two, 5(a), subsidiary rights...."
There Are No Good Executives: Nearly all of them are portrayed as greedy, amoral bastards except Chaney, who seems to be a decent guy but stopped trying to fight the corruption simply because he knows he can't win.
Ruddy, the CEO of UBS, is also portrayed as being offended by Beale's rants and the exploitation of them by Hackett and Christiansen. He keeps Beale on the air with the notion that Beale's inevitable collapse will damage Hackett's repuation but Ruddy has a heart attack, dies and is replaced by Hackett before this can happen.