A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film, made in 1976, is for adults and mature teens only. There is considerable profanity throughout: "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word," "whore," "goddamn," "piss," "dykes," and more. Characters discuss and engage in adultery. Actual sexual activity includes kissing and one scene in which characters undress (a brief flash of female breasts is included) and have sexual intercourse while the woman talks non-stop. Alcohol is consumed on numerous social occasions and two men get very drunk in the film's opening scene. Some smoking.
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What's the story?
When Howard Beale (Peter Finch) -- the aging, recently widowed anchorman of the fictional UBS TV network -- finds out that he's getting fired, he reacts by announcing live on the air that he'll kill himself during his farewell broadcast. Afterward, he begs his best friend/longtime producer Max (William Holden) for a second chance to bid a more dignified goodbye. Max, already stung that his news division has been taken from him and handed over to UBS parent company CCA's commercial-entertainment department under predatory young executive Diana (Faye Dunaway), grants Howard's request. This time Howard lets loose with a tirade about the state of the world, urging viewers to join him in his new mantra: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Both Max and Howard are fired, but the broadcast's sky-high ratings lead Diana to give The Howard Beale Show a makeover as a tacky variety program starring "the mad prophet of the airwaves." Howard's uncensored, apocalyptic speeches are a hit, but when he reveals some dirty secrets about CCA's business dealings, the bosses are suddenly very unhappy.
Is it any good?
A scathing multiple Oscar nominee, NETWORK is often said to be the movie that predicted the advent of "trash TV." Though marketed as satire, it was not a belly-laugh parody like Scary Movie, but rather a stern, grownup broadside that set out to shock and outrage. In fact, over the years a few of its details are hardly farfetched anymore; not in the 21st-century tubescape of voyeuristic Reality shows, sleazy music-video channels, news sensationalism, and circus-freak daytime talk. Kids who come home from school to The Jerry Springer Show might wonder what the fuss is all about.
But Network bristles with righteous anger, featuring especially caustic dialogue by legendary writer Paddy Chayefsky, who was one of the great script authors of early TV drama. By the mid-1970s he didn't like what he was seeing, and the narrative takes place in a post-Watergate atmosphere of darkest cynicism, homegrown terrorism, Third World atrocities, oil shortages, inflation, recession, amorality, and all-around bad news. Just about every character, even minor ones, gets to do angry oratory that could blister the wallpaper. This movie begs the question three decades later: Has TV gotten better or worse? Network seems especially on-target about the idea of huge, anything-for-money corporations running the media (and everything else), a situation that's only intensified since the 1970s.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the many disturbing propositions the movie puts forth: that greedy corporations control everything (broadcast news is only a part of it); that TV is a horrible, destructive force; and that the generation of viewers who grew up with TV are somehow damaged. Which of the film's predictions have come true?
Does this movie stand the test of time or does it seem old-fashioned?
- In theaters: November 26, 1976
- On DVD or streaming: May 16, 2000
- Cast: Faye Dunaway, Ned Beatty, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, William Holden
- Director: Sidney Lumet
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: profanity, violence, mature themes and sexuality
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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