The movie still packs a lot of punch, but has lost some of its emotional weight over the years. Network presaged many of the changes that would occur in broadcast news in the 80's, as it became subject to the bottom line when it came to ratings. The humor is dark and biting but many of the scenes don't ring as true today as they did 25 years ago when this movie burst onto the screens.
Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is at the end of his rope, ready to cash it all in on prime time, but when his suicide date is announced, ratings leap and soon he finds himself front and center of a tabloid style news program that allows him to unleash all his pent up rage against the establishment, sucking the viewers into his rants.
Lumet deftly plays Beale's theatrics off the seasoned television producer, William Holden. But, Holden is going through his own mid-life crisis and soon finds himself in bed with the frisky young television producer, Faye Dunaway, who has usurped him. What might have worked as a one-night stand is turned into rather drab affair that doesn't help this movie much. In the end, Holden is reduced to giving speeches, which doesn't really suit his style.
Mixed in is some darkly amusing scenes with terrorists, a Black Feminist Communist and an all too gullible audience that makes for the film's dramatic closing scene. This film came as quite a shock in its time, given that Network News was still dominated by Walter Cronkite, but for those watching it for the first time, it would look like a period piece. Still, the performances are riveting, particularly that of Peter Finch, which makes the film worth watching again.