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A television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor's ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit.
Howard Beale: I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"
Arthur Jensen: You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear? You think you've merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU... WILL... ATONE! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that... perfect world... in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel. Howard Beale: Why me? Arthur Jensen: Because you're on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday. Howard Beale: I have seen the face of God. Arthur Jensen: You just might be right, Mr. Beale.
Howard Beale: [laughing to himself] But, man, you're never going to get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you want to hear; we lie like hell. We'll tell you that, uh, Kojak always gets the killer, or that nobody ever gets cancer at Archie Bunker's house, and no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry, just look at your watch; at the end of the hour he's going to win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in *illusions*, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds... We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even *think* like the tube! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing! *WE* are the illusion! So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off! Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I'm speaking to you now! TURN THEM OFF... [collapses in a prophetic swoon as the audience erupts in thunderous applause]
Max Schumacher: You need me. You need me badly. Because I'm your last contact with human reality. I love you. And that painful, decaying love is the only thing between you and the shrieking nothingness you live the rest of the day. Diana Christensen: [hesitatingly] Then, don't leave me. Max Schumacher: It's too late, Diana. There's nothing left in you that I can live with. You're one of Howard's humanoids. If I stay with you, I'll be destroyed. Like Howard Beale was destroyed. Like Laureen Hobbs was destroyed. Like everything you and the institution of television touch is destroyed. You're television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You're madness, Diana. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. But not me. Not as long as I can feel pleasure, and pain... and love. [Kisses her] Max Schumacher: And it's a happy ending: Wayward husband comes to his senses, returns to his wife, with whom he has established a long and sustaining love. Heartless young woman left alone in her arctic desolation. Music up with a swell; final commercial. And here are a few scenes from next week's show. [Picks up his suitcases and leaves]
Diana Christensen: Hi. I'm Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the imperialist ruling circles. Laureen Hobbs: I'm Laureen Hobbs, a badass commie nigger. Diana Christensen: Sounds like the basis of a firm friendship.
Louise Schumacher: Then get out, go anywhere you want, go to a hotel, go live with her, and don't come back. Because, after 25 years of building a home and raising a family and all the senseless pain that we have inflicted on each other, I'm damned if I'm going to stand here and have you tell me you're in love with somebody else. Because this isn't a convention weekend with your secretary, is it? Or - or some broad that you picked up after three belts of booze. This is your great winter romance, isn't it? Your last roar of passion before you settle into your emeritus years. Is that what's left for me? Is that my share? She gets the winter passion, and I get the dotage? What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to sit at home knitting and purling while you slink back like some penitent drunk? I'm your wife, damn it. And, if you can't work up a winter passion for me, the least I require is respect and allegiance. I hurt. Don't you understand that? I hurt badly.
Howard Beale: I want you to go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore."
Howard Beale: Good evening. Today is Wednesday, September the 24th, and this is my last broadcast. Yesterday I announced on this program that I was going to commit public suicide, admittedly an act of madness. Well, I'll tell you what happened: I just ran out of bullshit. Am I still on the air? I really don't know any other way to say it other than I just ran out of bullshit. Bullshit is all the reasons we give for living. And if we can't think up any reasons of our own, we always have the God bullshit. We don't know why we're going through all this pointless pain, humiliation, decays, so there better be someone somewhere who does know. That's the God bullshit. And then, there's the noble man bullshit; that man is a noble creature that can order his own world; who needs God? Well, if there's anybody out there that can look around this demented slaughterhouse of a world we live in and tell me that man is a noble creature, believe me: That man is full of bullshit. I don't have anything going for me. I haven't got any kids. And I was married for thirty-three years of shrill, shrieking fraud. So I don't have any bullshit left. I just ran out of it, you see.
Howard Beale: What is finished... is the idea that this great country is dedicated to the freedom and flourishing of every individual in it. It's the individual that's finished. It's the single, solitary human being that's finished. It's every single one of you out there that's finished, because this is no longer a nation of independent individuals. It's a nation of some 200-odd million transistorized, deodorized, whiter-that-white, steel-belted bodies, totally unnecessary as human beings, and as replaceable as piston rods... Well, the time has come to say, is dehumanization such a bad word. Because good or bad, that's what is so. The whole world is becoming humanoid - creatures that look human but aren't. The whole world not just us. We're just the most advanced country, so we're getting there first. The whole world's people are becoming mass-produced, programmed, numbered, insensate things...
[first lines] Narrator: This story is about Howard Beale, who was the news anchorman on UBS TV. In his time, Howard Beale had been a mandarin of television, the grand old man of news, with a HUT rating of 16 and a 28 audience share. In 1969, however, his fortunes began to decline. He fell to a 22 share. The following year, his wife died, and he was left a childless widower with an 8 rating and a 12 share. He became morose and isolated, began to drink heavily, and on September 22, 1975, he was fired, effective in two weeks. The news was broken to him by Max Schumacher, who was the president of the news division at UBS. The two old friends got properly pissed. Howard Beale: [on the street] I was at CBS with Ed Murrow in 1951. Max Schumacher: Must've been 1950 then. [Beale nods] Max Schumacher: I was at NBC, uh, associate producer. Morning News. I was just a kid. 26 years old. [Not interested, Beale wanders off, until Schumacher stops him] Max Schumacher: Anyway... anyway... they're building the lower level of the George Washington Bridge. [Interested, Beale listens] Max Schumacher: We were doing a remote from there. Howard Beale, Max Schumacher: [start to laugh and snicker in unison] Max Schumacher: And nobody told me! [Beale keeps laughing, very interested] Max Schumacher: Ten after seven in the morning, I get a call, "Where the hell are YOU? You're supposed to be on the George Washington Bridge!" [Beale and Schumacher exchange laughs] Max Schumacher: I jump out of bed, throw my raincoat over my pajamas. I run downstairs and out into the street... [Schumacher runs into the street] Max Schumacher: ...hail a cab, and I say to the cabbie, "TAKE ME TO THE MIDDLE OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE!" [Beale laughs] Max Schumacher: And the cabbie turns around and he says... [giggles] Max Schumacher: ...he says "Don't do it, buddy! You're a young man! You got your whole life ahead of you!" Howard Beale, Max Schumacher: [shriek in hysterics, as Beale gives Schumacher a hug] Max Schumacher: Didn't I ever tell you that one before?
Howard Beale: Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people, and that's why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communications Corporation of America; there's a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy's office on the twentieth floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?
Howard Beale: [on the air] I just ran out of bullshit. Harry Hunter: [picks up ringing phone in editing room] Mr. Schumacher's right here, do you want to talk to him? Howard Beale: Bullshit is all the reasons we give for living. If we can't think up reasons of our own, we always have the God bullshit. Max Schumacher: [on the phone] Yeah, Tom, what is it? Howard Beale: We don't know why we go through all this pointless pain, humiliation, and decay. So there better be someone somewhere who *does* know. That's the God bullshit. Max Schumacher: He's saying that life is bullshit, and it is, so what are you screaming about? [hangs up]
[last lines] Narrator: This was the story of Howard Beale: The first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.
Max Schumacher: I'm the man that you presumably love. I'm a part of your life. I live here. I'm real. You can't switch to another station. Diana Christensen: Well, what exactly is it you want me to do? Max Schumacher: I just want you to love me. I just want you to love me, primal doubts and all. You understand that, don't you? Diana Christensen: [weakly] I don't know how to do that.
Diana Christensen: I watched your 6 o'clock news today; it's straight tabloid. You had a minute and a half of that lady riding a bike naked in Central Park; on the other hand, you had less than a minute of hard national and international news. It was all sex, scandal, brutal crime, sports, children with incurable diseases, and lost puppies. So, I don't think I'll listen to any protestations of high standards of journalism when you're right down on the streets soliciting audiences like the rest of us. Look, all I'm saying is if you're going to hustle, at least do it right.
Max Schumacher: I feel lousy about the pain that I've caused my wife and kids. I feel guilty and conscience-stricken, and all of those things you think sentimental, but which my generation calls simple human decency. And I miss my home, because I'm beginning to get scared shitless, because all of a sudden it's closer to the end than the beginning, and death is suddenly a perceptible thing to me, with definable features.
Diana Christensen: I'm sorry for all those things I said to you last night. You're not the worst fuck I ever had. Believe me, I've had worse. You don't puff or snorkel and make death-like rattles. As a matter of fact, you're rather serene in the sack. Max Schumacher: Why is it that a woman always thinks that the most savage thing she can say to a man is to impugn his cocksmanship. Diana Christensen: I'm sorry I impugned your cocksmanship. Max Schumacher: I gave up comparing genitals back in the schoolyard.
Diana Christensen: Well Max, here we are: Middle-aged man reaffirming his middle-aged manhood, and a terrified young woman with a father complex. What sort of script do you think we can make out of this?
Doorman: Good afternoon, Mr. Beale. Howard Beale: I MUST MAKE MY WITNESS. Doorman: Sure thing, Mr. Beale.
Howard Beale: [arms outstretched to the heavens] Edward George Ruddy died today! Edward George Ruddy was the Chairman of the Board of the Union Broadcasting Systems, and he died at eleven o'clock this morning of a heart condition, and woe is us! We're in a lot of trouble! Howard Beale: [calmly strolling toward the audience] So. A rich little man with white hair died. What has that got to do with the price of rice, right? And *why* is that woe to us? Because you people, and sixty-two million other Americans, are listening to me right now. Because less than three percent of you people read books! Because less than fifteen percent of you read newspapers! Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube! This tube is the Gospel, the ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers... This tube is the most awesome God-damned force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls in to the hands of the wrong people, and that's why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA - the Communication Corporation of America. There's a new Chairman of the Board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy's office on the twentieth floor. And when the twelfth largest company in the world controls the most awesome God-damned propoganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network? Howard Beale: [ascending the stage] So, you listen to me. Listen to me: Television is not the truth! Television is a God-damned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, side-show freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business! So if you want the truth... Go to God! Go to your gurus! Go to yourselves! Because that's the only place you're ever going to find any real truth.
Secretary: Mr. Hackett's trying to get through to you. Max Schumacher: Tell Mr. Hackett to go fuck himself.
Max Schumacher: Howard, I'm taking you off the air. I think you're having a breakdown, require treatment. Howard Beale: This is not a psychotic episode. This is a cleansing moment of clarity. I'm imbued, Max. I'm imbued with some special spirit. It's not a religious feeling at all. It's a shocking eruption of great electrical energy. I feel vivid and flashing, as if suddenly I'd been plugged into some great electromagnetic field. I feel connected to all living things. To flowers, birds, all the animals of the world. And even to some great, unseen, living force. What I think the Hindus call prana. But it's not a breakdown. I've never felt more orderly in my life. It is a shattering and beautiful sensation. It is the exalted flow of the space-time continuum, save that it is spaceless and timeless and... of such loveliness. I feel on the verge of some great, ultimate truth. And you will not take me off the air for now or for any other spaceless time!
Max Schumacher: After living with you for the last six months, I'm turning into one of your scripts. Well, this is not a script, Diana. There's some real, actual life going on here.
Howard Beale: No, no. I'm gonna blow my brains out right on the air, right in the middle of the 7 O'clock news. Max Schumacher: You'll get a hell of a rating, I'll guarantee you that. 50 share easy.
Howard Beale: We'll tell you anything you want to hear, we lie like hell.
Howard Beale: All human beings are becoming humanoids. All over the world, not just in America. We're just getting there faster since we're the most advanced country.
Howard Beale: All I know is, you've got to get mad. You've got to say, "I'm a human being, goddamn it. My life has value."
Man on Phones: So far, over 900 fucking phone calls complaining about the foul language. Frank Hackett: Shit.
Diana Christensen: [flipping through the newspaper] You know, Barbara, the Arabs have decided to jack up the price of oil another 20%... uh, the CIA has been caught opening Senator Humphrey's mail... there's a civil war in Angola... another one in Beirut... the, uh, New York City's still facing default... they finally caught up with Patricia Hearst... and the whole front page of the "Daily News" is Howard Beale.
Howard Beale: This is not a psychotic breakdown; it's a cleansing moment of clarity.
Arthur Jensen: Good morning, Mr. Beale. They tell me you're a madman.
Diana Christensen: By tomorrow, he'll have a 50 share, maybe even a 60. Howard Beale is processed instant God, and right now, it looks like he may just go over bigger than Mary Tyler Moore.
Howard Beale: I would like at this moment to announce that I will be retiring from this program in two weeks' time because of poor ratings. Since this show is the only thing I had going for me in my life, I've decided to kill myself. I'm going to blow my brains out right on this program a week from today. So tune in next Tuesday. That should give the public relations people a week to promote the show. You ought to get a hell of a rating out of that. 50 share, easy.
Diana Christensen: I was married for four years, and pretended to be happy; and I had six years of analysis, and pretended to be sane. My husband ran off with his boyfriend, and I had an affair with my analyst, who told me I was the worst lay he'd ever had. I can't tell you how many men have told me what a lousy lay I am. I apparently have a masculine temperament. I arouse quickly, consummate prematurely, and can't wait to get my clothes back on and get out of that bedroom. I seem to be inept at everything except my work. I'm goddamn good at my work and so I confine myself to that. All I want out of life is a 30 share and a 20 rating.
Laureen Hobbs: He's plague, he's smallpox, he's typhoid. I don't want to follow his goddamn show. I want out of that 8 o'clock spot. I've got enough troubles without Howard Beale as a lead-in. You guys scheduled me up against "Tony Orlando and Dawn," NBC's got "Little House on the Prairie," ABC's got "The Bionic Woman". You've gotta do something. You've gotta do something about Howard Beale. Get him off the air. Get him off. Do something. DO ANYTHING.
Frank Hackett: Four hours ago I was the Sun God at CCA, Mr. Jensen's handpicked golden boy, the heir apparent. Now I'm a man without a corporation.
Narrator: "The Mao Tse-Tung Hour" went on the air March 14th. It received a 47 share. The network promptly committed to 15 shows with an option for 10 more. There were the usual contractual difficulties.
Max Schumacher: She does have one script in which I kill myself: An adapted for television version of "Anna Karenina", where she's Count Vronsky and I'm Anna.
Howard Beale: Television is not the truth. Television is a goddamned amusement park.
Frank Hackett: Mr. Jensen is unhappy with Howard Beale and wants him discontinued. Diana Christensen: He may be unhappy, but he isn't stupid enough to withdraw the number one show on television out of pique. Frank Hackett: Two billion dollars is not pique! That's the Wrath of God! And the Wrath of God wants Howard Beale fired.
Edward George Ruddy: I'll want to see Mr. Beale after this. The way I hear it, Max, you are primarily responsible for this colossally stupid prank. Is that the fact, Max? Max Schumacher: That's the fact. Edward George Ruddy: It was unconscionable. Doesn't seem to be anything more to say. Max Schumacher: I have something to say, Ed. I want to know why that whole debasement of the news division discussed at the stockholders meeting this afternoon was kept secret from me. You & I go back 20 years, Ed. I took this job with your personal assurance that you would back my autonomy against any encroachment, but ever since CCA acquired UBS systems 10 months ago, Hackett's been taking over everything. Now, who the hell is running this network, you or some conglomerate called CCA? I mean, you're the head of the systems group, & Hackett is nothing but a hatchet man for the CCA. Nelson here, the president of the network, & he hasn't got a damn thing to say about anything anymore. Edward George Ruddy: I told you at the stockholders meeting, Max, That we would discuss all of that at our regular meeting tomorrow morning. If you had been patient, I would have discussed that I, to, thought Frank Hackett precipitate, & that the reorganization of the news division would not be executed until everyone-Specifically you, Max-had been consulted & satisfied. Instead, you sulked off like a child, & engaged this network & a shocking & disgraceful episode. Your position is no longer tenable, regardless of how management is restructured. I will expect your resignation at 10:00 tomorrow morning. We will coordinate our statements to the least detriment of everyone. Bob McDonough will take over the news division until we can sort all this out. I would like to see Mr. Beale now. Nelson Chaney: They're looking for him, Ed, they don't know where he is.
Nelson Chaney: All I know is that this violates every canon of respectable broadcasting. Frank Hackett: We're not a respectable network. We're a whorehouse network, and we have to take whatever we can get. Nelson Chaney: Well, I don't want any part of it. I don't fancy myself the president of a whorehouse. Frank Hackett: That's very commendable of you, Nelson. Now sit down. Your indignation is duly noted; you can always resign tomorrow.
Howard Beale: ...I want you to get mad. I don't want you to protest, I don't want you to riot, I don't want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression, the inflation, the Russians, or the crime in the streets. All I know is that first... You've got to get mad.
Frank Hackett: I'm gonna kill him. I'm gonna impale the son-of-a-bitch with a sharp stick through the heart. I'll take out a contract on him. I'll hire a professional killer; no, I'll do it myself. I'll strangle him with a sash cord.
Diana Christensen: Look, we've got a bunch of hobgoblin radicals called the Ecumenical Liberation Army who go around taking home movies of themselves robbing banks. Now, maybe they'll take movies of themselves kidnapping heiresses, hijacking 747s, bombing bridges, assassinating ambassadors. We'd open each week's segment with their authentic footage, hire a couple of writers to write a story behind that footage, and we've got ourselves a series.
Louise Schumacher: Do you love her? Max Schumacher: I don't know how I feel. I'm grateful I can feel anything. [his wife flinches] Max Schumacher: I know I'm obsessed with her. Louise Schumacher: Then say it. You keep telling me that you're obsessed, you're infatuated. Say that you're in love with her. Max Schumacher: [pauses] I'm in love with her.
Max Schumacher: Tell Hackett to go fuck himself!
Narrator: That evening, Howard Beale went on the air to preach the corporate cosmology of Arthur Jensen.
Laureen Hobbs: Well Ahmed, you ain't gonna believe this. They gonna make a TV star out of you. Just like Archie Bunker. You gonna be a household word. Great Ahmed Kahn: What the fuck are you talking about?
Narrator: By mid-October, "The Howard Beale Show" had settled in at a 42 share, more than equaling all the other network news shows combined. In the Nielsen ratings, "The Howard Beale Show" was listed as the fourth highest rated show of the month, surpassed only by "The Six Million Dollar Man", "All in the Family" and "Phyllis" - a phenomenal state of affairs for a news show - and on October the 15th, Diana Christensen flew to Los Angeles for what the trade calls powwows and confabs with our west coast programming execs and to get production rolling on the shows for the coming season.
Diana Christensen: [begins passionately making out with Max] NBC's offering 2.2 and a half mill per [kiss] Diana Christensen: per package of five James Bond movies, and I think I'm going to steal them for 3.5 [kiss] Diana Christensen: for their third run. [deep kiss]
Frank Hackett: [Discussing Beale's poor ratings] Where's that put us, Diana? Diana Christensen: That puts us in the shithouse. That's where that puts us.
Diana Christensen: The time has come to re-evaluate our relationship, Max. Max Schumacher: So I see. Diana Christensen: I don't like the way this script of ours has turned out. It's turning into a seedy little drama. Max Schumacher: You're going to cancel the show? Diana Christensen: Right.
Mary Ann Gifford: You fuckin' fascist! Did you see the film we made at the San Marino jail breakout demonstrating the rising up of the seminal prisoner class infrastructure? Laureen Hobbs: You can blow the seminal prisoner class infrastructure out your ass. I'm not knockin' down my goddamn distribution charges.
Diana Christensen: Look, I sent you all a concept analysis report yesterday. Did any of you read it? [Aides stare blankly at her] Diana Christensen: Well, in a nutshell, it said: "The American people are turning sullen. They've been clobbered on all sides by Vietnam, Watergate, the inflation, the depression; they've turned off, shot up, and they've fucked themselves limp, and nothing helps." So, this concept analysis report concludes, "The American people want somebody to articulate their rage for them." I've been telling you people since I took this job six months ago that I want angry shows. I don't want conventional programming on this network. I want counterculture, I want anti-establishment. I don't want to play butch boss with you people, but when I took over this department, it had the worst programming record in television history. This network hasn't one show in the top twenty. This network is an industry joke, and we'd better start putting together one winner for next September. I want a show developed based on the activities of a terrorist group, "Joseph Stalin and His Merry Band of Bolsheviks," I want ideas from you people. This is what you're paid for. And by the way, the next time I send an audience research report around, you'd all better read it, or I'll sack the fucking lot of you. Is that clear?
Diana Christensen: The next time I send out a marketing analysis you all better read it or I'll sack the fucking lot of you.
Max Schumacher: We could make a series of it. "Suicide of the Week." Aw, hell, why limit ourselves? "Execution of the Week." Howard Beale: "Terrorist of the Week." Max Schumacher: I love it. Suicides, assassinations, mad bombers, Mafia hitmen, automobile smash-ups: "The Death Hour." A great Sunday night show for the whole family. It'd wipe that fuckin' Disney right off the air.
Frank Hackett: Well, the issue is: Shall we kill Howard Beale, or not? I'd like to get some more opinions on that. Diana Christensen: I don't see we have any options, Frank. Let's kill the son-of-a-bitch.
Frank Hackett: I argued that television was a volatile industry in which success and failure were determined week by week; Mr. Jensen does not like volatile industries and suggested with a certain sinister silkiness that volatility in business usually reflected bad management.
Barbara: These are those four outlines submitted by Universal for an hour series. You needn't bother to read them; I'll tell them to you. The first one is set at a large Eastern law school, presumably Harvard. The series is irresistibly entitled "The New Lawyers." The running characters are a crusty-but-benign ex-Supreme Court justice, presumably Oliver Wendell Holmes by way of Dr. Zorba; there's a beautiful girl graduate student; and the local district attorney who is brilliant and sometimes cuts corners. The second one is called "The Amazon Squad." The running characters include a crusty-but-benign police lieutenant who's always getting heat from the commissioner; a hard-nosed, hard-drinking detective who thinks women belong in the kitchen; and the brilliant and beautiful young girl cop who's fighting the feminist battle on the force. Up next is another one of those investigative reporter shows. A crusty-but-benign managing editor who's always gett... [Diana cuts her off]
Narrator: The initial response to the new Howard Beale show was not auspicatory. The press was, without exception, hostile and industry reaction, negative. The ratings for the Thursday and Friday shows were both 14, but Monday's rating dropped a point, clearly suggesting the novelty was wearing off.
Diana Christensen: I'm interested in doing a weekly dramatic series based on the Ecumenical Liberation Army. The way I see the series is: Each week we open with an authentic act of political terrorism taken on the spot, in the actual moment. Then we go to the drama behind the opening film footage. That's your job, Ms. Hobbs. You've got to get the Ecumenicals to bring in that film footage for us. The network can't deal with them directly; they are, after all, wanted criminals.
Max Schumacher: [about Diana] I'm not sure she's capable of any real feelings. She's television generation. She learned life from Bugs Bunny.
Arthur Jensen: [greeting Beale] How are you now? Howard Beale: I'm as mad as a hatter. Arthur Jensen: Who isn't?
Nelson Chaney: The affiliates won't carry it. Frank Hackett: The affiliates will kiss your ass if you can hand them a hit show.
Diana Christensen: [shouting] Son of a bitch. We've struck the motherlode.
Diana Christensen: Let's stop kidding ourselves. Full-fledged messiahs don't come in bunches.
[Jensen leads Beale into the conference room] Arthur Jensen: Valhalla, Mr. Beale. Please, sit down.
[immediately after making love with Max] Diana Christensen: What's really bugging me now is my daytime programming. NBC's got a lock on daytime - lousy game shows - and I'd like to bust them. I'm thinking of doing a homosexual soap opera, "The Dykes": The heart-rending saga about a woman hopelessly in love with her husband's mistress.
Laureen Hobbs: Don't fuck with my distribution costs! I'm making a lousy two-fifteen per segment and I'm already deficiting twenty-five grand a week with Metro! I'm paying William Morris ten percent off the top, and I'm giving this turkey ten thou per segment, and another five to this fruitcake! And Helen, don't start no shit about a piece again! I'm paying Metro twenty-thousand for all foreign and Canadian distribution, and that's after recoupment! The Communist Party's not gonna see a nickel of this goddamn show until we go into syndication! Helen Miggs: C'mon Laureen. The party's in for seventy-five hundred a week of the production expenses. Laureen Hobbs: I'm not giving this pseudoinsurrectionary sedentarian a piece of my show! I'm not giving him script approval, and I sure as shit ain't gotten him into my distribution charges! Mary Ann Gifford: [screaming] You fucking fascist! Did you see the film we made of the San Marino jail breakout, demonstrating the rising up of the seminal prisoner class infrastructure? Laureen Hobbs: You can blow the seminal prisoner class infrastructure out your ass! I'm not knockin' down my goddamn distribution charges! Great Ahmed Kahn: [fires off his gun through the ceiling] Man, give her the FUCKING overhead clause. Let's get back to page twenty-two, number 5, small 'a'. Subsidiary rights.
Howard Beale: You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here, you're beginning to believe that the tube is reality and your own lives are unreal. You do. Why, whatever the tube tells you: you dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube. This is mass madness, you maniacs. In God's name, you people are the real thing, WE are the illusion.
Narrator: It was a perfectly admissible argument that Howard Beale advanced in the days that followed. It was, however, also a very depressing one. Nobody particularly cared to hear his life was utterly valueless. By the end of the first week in June, "The Howard Beale Show" had dropped one point in the rating and its trend of shares dipped under 48 for the first time since last November.
Arthur Jensen: I started as a salesman, Mr. Beale. I sold sewing machines and automobile parts, hair brushes and electronic equipment. [puts arm around Beale's shoulders] Arthur Jensen: They say I can sell anything. I'd like to try to sell something to *you*.
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