Sunday, September 29, 2013

Don't Make a Scene: Network

The Story: Back when this scene was first presented (away back in 2008, election week) it was accompanied with these words: "No words necessary. Except to say that the words ring truer now than they did in 1976. You bet they're still yelling in Baton Rouge...from their FEMA trailers."

For this go-'round, we'd like to dedicate this one to Senator Ted Cruz of the great state of Texas, who, this week, made his own little rant on the Senate floor before cameras, in an apparent bid to get camera-time by aping Rand Paul's filibuster of a few weeks ago over domestic drone usage.

Only this wasn't a filibuster.  There's wasn't a vote being debated, and what he wanted to talk about—when he wasn't going somewhere else, like the philosophy of "Duck Dynasty"*—was about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was voted into law March 23, 2010—and hasn't gone into effect yet (that will be October 1st, 2013). Cruz says it doesn't work.  He's right.  It doesn't.  It can't...and that's because it doesn't go into effect for a couple days (That's a bit like me saying that I know what the score for the first game of the World Series is because, since it hasn't started it's 0 to 0).  How effective it will be will depend entirely on how states decide to fund it and utilize it, and that will fall along party lines. 

Because, in a democracy, your health depends on your political party affiliation. 

Anyway, Cruz wanted to prove he wasn't just an empty shirt with hopes to run for the White House.  He proved it.  Under that shirt is a lot of hot air...that's fairly directionless. My big take away after his twenty one hours of sad-clown fretting and regretting was his recalling the Little Engine That Could and it's mantra "I think I can, I think I can."  It would be not only more economical, but more truthful and more determined if he left off the words "I think" and merely adapted "I can."  

But then he'd actually have to do something, I think.

And so, back to Howard Beale, "Mad Prophet of the Airwaves," sociological evangelist, who has no answers and no solutions, but just wants us to react because yelling about it always solves things, and impresses people you're dealing with that you're a thoughtful person who can be reasoned with. Anyway, that's what I learned in customer service.

But lest one become too smug, like Cruz's speech, there's not a lot of original thought being displayed here, merely feel-good mob mentality.

Also, when this was first presented it was stated that George Clooney (was) prepping a remake...which will be TV.

Five years later, no TV network has decided to bite its own hand and plans for a live TV remake of Network haven't appeared.

The Set-Up: Old-school UBS news-anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) has been fired for low ratings, so he has announced that in a week's time he will commit suicide on the air. As a result, his ratings have soared. But his mental condition deteriorates. Now, after wandering the streets of New York in the rain in his pajamas and trench coat, he arrives at the studio in time for his newscast...and some commentary. Programming Director Diane Christensen (Faye Dunaway) and former News Director Max Schumacher (William Holden), along with the rest of the country, are watching.


Director: Take two, cue Howard.

Howard Beale: I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression.

Beale: Everybody's out of work, or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street...

Beale: ...and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.

Beale: We know things are bad--worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we're living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, "Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone."

Beale: Well, I'm not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot.

Beale: I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad.

Beale: You've got to say, "I'm a human being, goddamn it! My life has value!"

Beale: So I want you to get up now, I want all of you to get up out of your chairs.

Beale: I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it and stick your head out, and yell, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Harry Hunter: (in the control room): Stay with him, stay with him!

Director: Everybody, stay with him!

Beale: I want you to get up right now, get up, go to your windows, open them, and stick your head out and yell, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Diana Christensen: How many stations does this go out live to?
Beale: Things have got to change! But first you've gotta get mad!

Hunter: Sixty seven! I know it goes to Louisville and Atlanta and...

Beale: You've got to say, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis.

(Former news-director Max Schumacher sits at home with his wife and daughter watching the screen as Howard rants. Max is alarmed)

Beale: But first get up out of your chairs, open the window...

Beale: ...stick your head out, and yell, and say:

Beale: "I'm as mad as hell...

Beale: ...and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Christensen(walking into executive Herb Thackeray's office): Who are you talking to, Herb?
Herb Thackeray(on phone): WCGG in Atlanta.
Christensen: Are they yelling in Atlanta, Herb?
Thackeray: Are they yelling in Atlanta, Ted?

Beale: But first you've got to get mad! You've got to say, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Ray Pitofsky (handing the phone to Christensen): They're yelling in Baton Rouge.

Beale: Get up! Get up out of your chairs!!

Christensen (throwing the phone into the air): Son-of-a-bitch! We've struck the mother lode!

Beale: Stick your head out of the window, open it, stick your head out and yell and keep yelling, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore." Just get up from your chairs...right now..

Louise Schumacher: What are you doing?
Caroline Schumacher: I'm going to see if anybody's yelling!

Beale: Stick your head out and start yelling, and keep yelling...

(It's already started. More and more windows start to open, and people come out and begin yelling in different tones, different accents, different cadences "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!!")

"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

(A thunderstorm begins overhead, and its thunder can't drown out the, by now, hundreds of voices shouting out into the night.)

(Max Schumacher listens for a moment, then he shakes his head, and closes the window, shutting out the noise.)


Words by Paddy Chayefsky

Pictures by Owen Roizman and Sidney Lumet

Network is available on DVD from MGM Home Video.

* Funny.  The episode of "Duck Dynasty" after Cruz's speech was about how the Uncle Si was doing some insurance scamming to buy himself a motorized scooter.  Great values we should all emulate.  Thanks, Senator.  

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