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"AND THE SPLENDID BOHO GOES TO..."- EPISODE THREE - NED BEATTY FOR "NETWORK" (1976) - THE SPLENDID BOHEMIANS PRESENT A NEW SERIES WHERE THEY AWARD A NOTED CHARACTER ACTOR WHOSE CONTRIBUTION TO A FILM ENHANCED IT'S GREATNESS

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“AND THE SPLENDID BOHO GOES TO…”- EPISODE THREENED BEATTY FOR “NETWORK” (1976) – THE SPLENDID BOHEMIANS PRESENT A NEW SERIES WHERE THEY AWARD A NOTED CHARACTER ACTOR WHOSE CONTRIBUTION TO A FILM ENHANCED IT’S GREATNESS .

When Network was released in November 46 years ago, the poster warned audiences to prepare themselves “for a perfectly outrageous motion picture”. The film was written by Paddy Chayevsky (Marty, The Hospital) and directed by Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon), both of whom made their names in television in the 1950s, and both of whom believed that the industry, and the world, had been in decline ever since.

Network was their furious howl of protest. It was a triumphant black comedy, winning four Oscars, being nominated for two more, and going on to be held in ever higher acclaim. In 2006, the Writers Guilds of America chose Chayevksy’s screenplay as one of the 10 best in cinema history. Last year, BBC Culture’s critics’ poll of the 100 best American films ranked Network at 73. But is it really “perfectly outrageous”? It’s easy to believe that, in 1976, Chayevsky and Lumet’s bleak view of television’s crassness and irresponsibility was deeply shocking. But the scary thing about re-watching Network today is that even its wildest flights of fancy no longer seem outrageous at all. The film was so accurate in its predictions that its most far-fetched satirical conceits have become so familiar as to be almost quaint. But the most prophetic part of Network has little to do with Howard. Running alongside his story, there is a sharper, funnier subplot concerning producer Diana’s other brainwave: The Mao Tse-Tung Hour. Her idea is a weekly drama series about a real revolutionary group, the Ecumenical Liberation Army, which incorporates footage of genuine crimes committed by the ELA itself. In short: Diana invents modern reality television.

Diana has her idea when she sees some black-and-white footage of an ELA bank robbery – footage that was shot by the robbers themselves. At first, she is amazed. “You mean, they actually shot this film while they were ripping off the bank,” she marvels. Nowadays, though… well, which terrorist cell bothers to commit any crime without filming it? Which television station or social media outlet would hesitate to show such amateur footage? And the crazy notion that shots of a violent crime scene could be spliced into a weekly television docudrama? It didn’t stop American Crime Story: The People v OJ Simpson winning four Emmy Awards. Network repeatedly tells us that Diana is a diabolical femme fatale and a soulless, ambition-crazed moral vacuum. Actually, she is just ahead of her time.


By Rich Buckland 09/26/2021 07:21 PM

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