The plot begins when a news anchor has a bit of a breakdown when he’s sacked and announces that he will commit suicide on the program in two weeks time. Conveniently, there’s a shareholder meeting the next night which pisses the anchor’s boss off enough to let the maniac back on the air, and people start watching the show. This is, without a doubt, the strongest arc of any of the multiple things going on in this movie, the only one, in my opinion, which sustains the full weight that this move feels it has. I won’t get into what happens, but I will say that everything having to do with this story line I felt was very impressive.
There are two major subplots. The first deals with the head of the news division and Faye Dunaway, a prototype of the programming director who brought you Jerry Springer. The second concerns the Dunaway character’s involvement with a terrorist group that she puts on the air.
The first I find completely unconvincing. We don’t see any reason why these two should have any chemistry at all, or maybe I missed that three minutes. I feel it drags down the rest of the movie while not providing any real substantive value, besides letting the news director get inside for some body shots on the mentality creating this kind of television. I found it grating and distracting.
The second showcases a communist radical who does quite a good capatalist impression once the money shows up. This subplot fares a lot better.
I feel like a review of this movie without a discussion among other people who watched it is not quite complete. Most of the reviews you’ll see elsewhere are unswervingly high. I still recommend the movie, simply because it deals with an interesting topic in an interesting way. Disagreeing with its message, or not finding the characters really all that credible is another issue.
The movie is loud, and attacks in every direction. That means that sometimes it hits, sometimes it misses, and sometimes you’re wondering what the hell is happening! For its time, the movie would have to be considered unbelievable. The fact that it could see what was happening so far in advance (a bit like the psychic they put on the news show) is worthy of the highest commendation. The only way it retains this kind of value today is if you watch with other people and talk about it. The movie’s messages are simply too scattered to put them all together. I give it a 7.2/10 and add a bonus point if you know what TV was like in those days.