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To test viewer reaction, some consultants have gone so far as to rig up human guinea pigs with electrodes to measure their physical reaction to what they see on the tube. In Los Angeles, Station KNXT Anchorman Pat Emory was fired when test viewers failed to tingle properly when he came on the air. "By that measurement," fumes Emory, now with St. Louis' KNBC, "Adolph Hitler should have been anchorman."
"Local news programs show what network news is going to become," predicts Network Director Lumet, who, like Chayefsky, fondly remembers TV's heyday in the '50s. "What the hell is going to happen when Walter Cronkite goes and the news gets turned over to those guys with Mark Spitz haircuts or Jerry Colonna mustaches?" At NBC and CBS, some newsmen feel the monster Kiker talked about has already peered out of the closet at ABC. Barbara Walters, they note, will not only continue to be a highly professional newswoman, she will also be an entertainer (she has a special with Barbra Streisand Dec. 14), and half her $1 million salary will be paid by the entertainment division.
Gloomy Prophet. Will Network cause TV executives to stop and think about where they are going? Chayefsky, as gloomy a prophet as Howard Beale, doubts that it will, at least for long. Lin Bolen, a former programming vice president at NBCand a model for Faye Dunaway's characterization of Diana Christensonagrees. Now an independent producer in Hollywood, Bolen says that "the rating game is at its zenith. The numbers have never meant more than they do this year. I hate to admit it, but many people who are in responsible network jobs today don't give a damn about quality. To them, it's only the ratings that matter. And that is what Network is all about, isn't it?"
It is indeed, and the irony is that the movie may eventually become a pawn in the game it deplores. If the film is a hit, the angry executives on Network Row will undoubtedly forget their pique and buy it for the tube. Chayefsky and his friends are prepared. Despite the author's professed distaste of superprofits (see box), a second, sanitized soundtrack of the movie is ready and waiting for TV distribution. That naughty, daring word bullshit, for example, has been changed to a resounding "bullsoup!"