Classic of the Week: Network (1976)

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Network is a 1976 American satirical film directed by Sidney Lumet, about a fictional television network, UBS, and their troubles with poor ratings. It stars Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, William Holden and Robert Duvall.

This film is insane to the max at times, but also quite funny as well. The lead character Howard Beale (Finch), almost pulls a Christine Chubbuck, by committing suicide on national television, but backs down and still goes mad by yelling the famous line, “I am as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” As a result, it shows several viewers opening their windows and yelling the same thing.

Unlike other films about television networks like Broadcast News and Morning Glory, this one is A LOT more serious. It shows the life of a struggling television network, stress and insanity and how to they manage to bring their ratings up.

Every lead actor is fantastic in their roles. Sure this film could’ve used less violence, including yelling, but it is still outstanding. It is an important film on the subject of television network ratings and what goes on behind the cameras and screens. Sure, Broadcast News is about struggling in the live television world too, but it is far too comical and romantic unlike Network. This film portrays news anchors as crazy and maybe some were and still are, but the insanity is done so well, particularly the character Howard Beale. No one could be him, but Peter Finch.

Though this film does go overboard with Beale, he is still an important character and it wouldn’t be the same without him. This is an inspirational film, even if for controversial reasons, like controversial conservative political commentator and radio show host Glenn Beck borrowed his entire paranoid identity from Beale. It also predicted the rise of tabloid TV. These are just a couple of reasons why this film is just as relevant today as was then.

This film proves that sensationalized TV can make network ratings boom. Though fictional, the radical shows and their hosts are just as realistic today as they were then, proving that many people will watch and believe anything. It also predicted reality TV. Who knew that a 70’s fictional film could be so relevant and spot on then and today. Not many films come even close to being as spot on this one. It is truly special and one of a kind. One that, if tried to be remade, wouldn’t stand the test of time.

We need more films like this, especially this day in age. Outstanding! Outstanding! Outstanding as hell! 18+ 5/5

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