This weekend HBO released the first trailer for its upcoming series The Newsroom, an Aaron Sorkin drama about the behind-the-scenes controversies and shenanigans at a cable news network. And it struck us as immediately familiar. Isn't this just a tweak of the setup for Network, Paddy Chayefsky's eerily prophetic television satire from 1976? Let's count the ways the two trailers are similar.
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Well, first, here are both trailers.
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Network's Howard Beale (Peter Finch) has his freakout — saying he's retiring because of low ratings and is going to kill himself on live television — while on air, whereas The Newsroom's Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) does his at some kind of panel discussion, but, because of the internet, everything "goes viral" these days, so he might as well have done it on live television. Anyway, Beale's and McAvoy's messages are mostly the same, basically that things are going to hell and we all need to wake up, sheeple. It's righteous outrage tinged with mania.
The Power Woman
Enter Faye Dunaway's Diana Christensen, in Network, and Emily Mortimer's Mackenzie MacHale (that name! that horrible, horrible name!), on The Newsroom, both ambitious producer-types bent on turning the controversy into a contro-tunity (yeah?). There's may be a workplace romance involved, in Diana's case it's with news director Max Schumacher (William Holden), but in Mackenzie's case it's with the ragin' newsman himself. (OK, so that's not explicitly evident in the trailer, but, it's in the script.)
The Boss Says No
Initially unable to see the brilliance hidden behind all the frothing, Robert Duvall's programming exec in Network (as well as Holden's producer character) and Jane Fonda's network parent company head in The Newsroom demand that the furious anchormen calm down or else. How wrong they are, of course! (Until they're right?)
Speechless In Front of the Powers That Be
In the Network, Beale is taken to meet his network's parent company head (Ned Beatty) and sits in a shocked stupor as he's tiraded at, while on Newsroom, the president of the network (Sam Waterston) is taken before Fonda's character and strikes a similar look.
Panic in the Control Room
Of course, obligatory of any movie or TV show about broadcast news is the shot of an on-air freakout as seen from the production booth. In Network it's Beale's initial tirade, while The Newsroom's involves the hurling of a BlackBerry. Hurling a smart phone is today's version of "I'm going to kill myself on air," apparently.