Sidney Lumet -- who died over the weekend at age 86 -- was of course best known for a series of classic movies that defined the culture (even New York). But less known about him is that he was one of the major forces in early TV -- back when it was largely based in New York because that's where the money (sponsors) was. Most television production moved on to the west coast by the late '50s, but Lumet remained behind in New York.
I've posted the 6th chapter of his Emmy TV legends interview -- I can't speak highly enough of this wonderful resource that the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences had the wisdom to assemble years ago -- because he discusses "Network." If you have 25 minutes, it's worth every minute because he discusses the early days. The first couple of chapters are more in depth on this subject. The discussion about "Network" comes at 10 minutes and 25 seconds in.
"Network," from 1976, needs no introduction but Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky created something that to a large extent -- perhaps even an overwhelming extent -- has defined the intelligentsia's view of television, and the bargain it made long ago with the devil. (This interview was made in the late '90s, so of course much has changed, and much remains the same.)
He says here:
"Paddy and I said, what satire? It's sheer reportage."
He adds about TV: "The thing that I worry about increasingly . . . is the alienation, the loss of people going to the polls -- that the area of TV's responsibility -- is the very nature of the medium itself. It's an isolating experience. We are alone. The first time where entertainment is given to you alone . . . That isolation . . . is at the root of what everybody is supposedly feeling."