Anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) gets canned by his network and goes on the air and tells everyone that he’s going to kill himself. The top brass gets upset but they give him a chance to go back on television and apologize. Beale uses this opportunity to say the word “bullshit” a lot and while this enrages a lot of the executives, it also gets very big ratings. The network then decides to give Howard his own show, despite the fact that the man is obviously is having some sort of breakdown and is slowly going bat shit insane. When Beale’s ratings eventually dwindle, the bitchy programming executive (Faye Dunaway) has him murdered on the air to keep up the ratings.
Network is a searing indictment of television that is just as relevant today as it was in 1976. While some of the stuff in Paddy Chayefsky’s script doesn’t ring true (Beale’s show looks like a cross between the 700 Club and an Andy Williams Christmas Special), Sidney Lumet’s direction is intense and the performances are all great. Finch is captivating as the nutty newscaster and deserved his posthumous Oscar. There is a reason why you always see his “I’m mad as Hell” speech on every Oscar clips show; because he’s awesome. Dunaway is also excellent and reminds you that there was a time when she actually had a decent career and William (The Wild Bunch) Holden is quite good as a crusty old school television man.
I would have enjoyed the movie a lot more if it had just focused on the meltdown of Howard Beale, but there are a lot of annoying subplots that slow things down. The love angle between Dunaway and Holden feels like it came out of another movie and the subplot about a