Network is a hilarious yet sad hate letter, a precscient black 'satire' about the evil world of television from 1976. Satire is in parentheses because every last one of its apparently outlandish over the top predictions about the bleak and soul destroying aspects of TV though ratings grabbing corporate capitalism have come to pass - in spades - 'reality TV' before the term had been coined. I know this because I work in the world of 'reality TV', but all you need to do prove this is turn on your TV set.
The star of the film, and creator of a bitter, beautifully structured and frequently poetic script is that screenwriting colussus Paddy Chayefsky. Second most valuable players are the deeply talented and spectacular cast, academy award winners Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Beatrice Straight, but upon a recent viewing, William Holden, who is the heart and soul of this film. One of the best ever leading men in Hollywood history for manliness, looks and acting chops, Holden gives an indelible, sad eyed, heartfelt and intelligent performance that haunts you long after screening. He was cheated of an oscar for this one. Thirdly, the wonderful Sidney Lumet (arguably the highest quality and longest spanning list of Hollywood critical classics - over four decades -of any director) directs up to his usual high standards, but this is Chayefsky's film.
Yes, Chaefysky's script is preachy and declamitory throughout with very long and discursive speeches spewing his venom about the current (30 years ago) state of TV and corporate American that has only become more dire in subsequent decades. However, these wonderful actors pull off each word with such panache and briliance that you almost don't notice the clunky aspects of the storytelling.
I do wonder if a young person (under 25) would even perceive Network as a satire at all, except for a network decision to assassinate its anchorman for ratings. To them, this would just seem like a drama about the way things are, and a realistic one at that. Hmmm. I take that back, even that assination plot doesn't seem that outrageous today. (Osama navy seals takedown, anyone? A ratings hit if there ever was one.)