I recently rewatched Network, one of my favorite films of all time, and it just didn’t seem funny anymore. It didn’t seem over the top. It seemed a little tame, in fact.
George Clooney saw the same reaction from a group of young people when he screened the film for them (there are no more details about this screening, and Clooney just screening movies to young people does sound sort of creepy, doesn’t it?): “I couldn’t understand it, (then) I realized that everything [Paddy] Chayefsky wrote about happened. And so, suddenly, the idea that the anchor is more important that the news story, and that you’d be doing sort of reality-based shows with heads of gangs and Sybil the Soothsayer all happened. And when you have that great speech with Ned Beatty sitting there going ‘There is no U.S.A. and Soviet Union, there is only Xerox and IBM,’ you realize all of those things were true, or came true.”
In an amazing bit of brio that I can only say is completely wrongheaded yet admirable, Clooney has decided to do Network as his next live TV broadcast. You might remember that he did Fail Safe a number of years ago – it was really fucking excellent (and I may be wrong, but it’s also not on DVD, which is a pity). Clooney will be using Chayefsky’s script and will only update some of the details about the Black Panthers.
Apparently Les Moonves, possibly moved by Clooney’s excellent Good Night and Good Luck, asked the actor to make this film his next live TV project. The problem is that it makes no damn sense. The original film is really great, and if you’re not going to be updating the story in any way, you’ve lost the dark satire, since the whole damn film has come to pass.
Even though I think this whole thing is monumentally wrongheaded, I love George Clooney for doing it. I love him for doing the live TV, and I love him for doing projects that are about something. I just wish he’d leave Network be.