Clooney and Eye ‘Network’

Thesp, net to air live version of Chayefsky's classic

George Clooney and CBS are planning a live TV version of Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 classic “Network.”

Eye execs declined comment, but industry insiders confirm a deal is in the works, and said that the project is likely to air next fall. Plan is to duplicate the formula Clooney and CBS used five years ago when they mounted a live revival of the 1964 Cold War drama “Fail Safe.”

CBS topper Leslie Moonves approached Clooney about doing the same thing with “Network,” which won Academy Awards for Chayefsky’s screenplay, lead actors Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch (posthumously) and supporting actress Beatrice Straight.

It’s unclear if Clooney will star in the new “Network.” He did appear on camera in “Fail Safe.”

Clooney and Moonves go way back, with Moonves working with Clooney in the Warner Bros. TV sudser “Sisters” and casting him in his breakthrough role on “ER.”

In helmer Sidney Lumet’s take on “Network,” Finch plays respectable, avuncular anchorman Howard Beale, who’s fired and threatens an on-air suicide. A cynical network executive (Dunaway) thinks his descent into madness will make for great television — and after all, their ratings are the lowest of the major networks.

Beale famously rants on the air. “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

In an interview with the AP, which first reported news of the remake, Clooney said he will basically leave Chayefsky’s script alone, just updating it a bit by supplanting a Black Panther group with a terrorist group.

The actor-filmmaker thinks “Network” was prophetic, but told AP he was briefly confused when he screened it for a group of young people and none of them saw it as a dark satire.

“I couldn’t understand it, (then) I realized that everything Chayefsky wrote about happened,” Clooney said. “And so, suddenly, the idea that the anchor is more important than the news story, and that you’d be doing sort of reality-based shows all happened. And when you have that great speech with Ned Beatty sitting there going ‘There is no U.S.A. and Soviet Union, there is only Xerox and IBM,’ you realize all of those things were true, or came true.”

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