DVD, Blu-Ray Movie Review
Directed by Sidney Lumet, Written by Paddy Chayefsky, 121 minutes, Rated R.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
Ever wonder what an episode of Mary Tyler Moore might look like had it been written by Kurt Vonnegut? Well, look no further than "Network." Just out on Blu-ray disc, director Sidney Lumet's satire about a failing television station leaves no stone unturned, tearing into the stars, the executives, and the audience with a sharp comic edge and a dark sense of humor.
"Network" is about a failing television station called UBS. More specifically, it chronicles the consequences of having lousy ratings. No one learns this lesson more so than longtime news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch), who after 15 years behind the desk is cast out from the network in lieu of more contemporary programming. Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, Howard hijacks the camera during his final broadcast and vents about the grotesque state of humanity and actually makes a connection with the audience.
The rest of the network is flabbergasted, save for the new station programmer Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway). Diana spent the better part of her time at UBS searching out angry television. With the country in the heart of a recession and the dream of the '60s dead, she’s sees a demand for volatile shows that channel this rage--and Howard Beale becomes her poster child.
Things escalate quickly as Howard becomes the host of his own televangelist talk show. Howard's close friend and longtime partner, Max (William Holden), watches in horror as the show leads to the downfall of the news department, a cult-like viewership, television show's developed by political radicals and terrorist organizations, and the decline of the American family unit.
For all of its strange idiosyncrasies, "Network" remains sharply satirical with a keen eye for detail. It's easy to get wrapped up in these people's lives, even if, as Max so appropriately points out, they act as if they're reading from a script. "Network" has little respect for the phony television generation, and through its scathing perception of it, it's easy to understand why.