Friday, March 3, 2006
After declaring intent to commit suicide during his live broadcast, newsman Howard Beale is kept on-air by network bigwigs for the ratings generated by his spontaneous, outrageous statements ("I'm mad as hell..." and other greatest hits). As revenue increases, the dowdy set is exchanged for a velvety, spotlit stage Beale shares with gossip-mongers and soothsayers, while the suits upstairs (Max Schumacher, the principled head of the news department, and Diana Christensen, the bloodthirsty new head of programming) make for literal odd bedfellows. This would be a one-track satire if not for Paddy Chayefsky's brilliant late-reel turnabout involving a shadowy corporate figure who delivers a fire-and-brimstone carpet-calling. Mad Prophets, indeed. A sub-plot unveiling how acts of terrorism are staged for video hits uneasily close to the the 21st Century; a weirdly prescient journey into the dark heart of television news/entertainment. Bring back J. Fred Muggs!