Broadcast News


2h 13m 1987
Broadcast News

Brief Synopsis

A news producer is caught between a committed journalist and a flashy anchor.

Film Details

Also Known As
Nyhetsfeber
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Release Date
1987
Production Company
D C Valentine
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox Distribution
Location
Alexandria, Virginia, USA; Washington, DC, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 13m

Synopsis

A satiric look at the inner workings of the Washington news bureau of a major TV network and the romantic triangle between the feisty young female producer, the vain male news anchor, and the good-hearted male reporter.

Crew

Richard Allan

Other

Robert Angus

Other

Bob Badami

Music Editor

Lisa Bailey

Assistant

Mary Bailey

Script Supervisor

Florian Ballhaus

Assistant Camera Operator

Jan Sebastian Ballhaus

Production Assistant

Michael Ballhaus

Dp/Cinematographer

Michael Ballhaus

Director Of Photography

Kevin Barlia

Apprentice

Sharon Barnebey

Other

Saul Bass

Titles

Jerry Belson

Assistant

Steven Benioff

Production Assistant

Steven Benioff

Video

Robin Bennett

Assistant

Yudi Bennett

Assistant Director

Beth Bergeron

Adr Editor

Frank Bianco

Hair Assistant

Gordon Blaine

Driver

M Pam Blumenthal

Editing

Jane Bogart

Set Decorator

Sally Boldt

Music Editor

William Borum

Swing Gang

Joseph Brennan

Boom Operator

Diane Brooks

Production Associate

Holly Holmberg Brooks

Assistant

James L. Brooks

Producer

James L. Brooks

Screenplay

Andrew Bruick

Craft Service

Barbara Bruno

Assistant Director

Irving Buchman

Makeup

T Burton

Driver

Winter Byrd

Camera Operator

Francis Cabrel

Song Performer

Francis Cabrel

Song

Colleen Callaghan

Hair

Steve Callas

Foreman

Michel Camilo

Song

Marly Carpenter

Apprentice

Thomas Causey

Sound Mixer

Ellen Chenoweth

Casting

Richard F Clark

Video

Lee Cohee

Other

Bill Conti

Music

Bob Cornett

Sound Editor

Frank Lucky Costello

Other

Jacqueline Cristianini

Dialogue Editor

David Davis

Technical Advisor

George Davis

Driver

Jerry Deblau

Best Boy

John Deblau

Gaffer

Lee Decarlo

Other

Douglas A Degrazzio

Video

Donald Diggs

Driver

Patrick Drummond

Sound Effects Editor

Barbara Duncan

Assistant

David Dunlap

Camera Operator

Jack Eskew

Original Music

Lynsey Evans

Production Assistant

Ralph Evans

Driver

Frank Fernandez

Other

Penney Finkelman Cox

Coproducer

Brian Fitzsimons

Best Boy Grip

Phil Fravel

Driver

Danielle Fredrickson

Driver

Sam Friend

Driver

Harold Fuhrman

Set Designer

Carl Fullerton

Makeup

Jessica Gallavan

Adr Editor

Dennis Gamiello

Key Grip

Paul Germain

Production Associate

Lee Gerst

Driver

Bruce Gfeller

Construction Coordinator

Dick Girod

Other

Margaret Goodspeed

Assistant Editor

Michael Gore

Assistant

Robert Grieve

Sound Editor

Clay A. Griffith

Production Assistant

Anne Grodzicki

Sound Editor

Oda Groeschel

Costumes

Margaret Guinee

Sound Editor

Randy Gunter

Props

Bob Hagans

Color Timer

Julie Hall

Apprentice

Barbara Harris

Casting

Kerry Hayes

Photography

Grover Helsley

Sound

Wilt Henderson

Sound Editor

Paula Herald

Casting

Gregg Heschong

Director Of Photography

Gregg Heschong

Dp/Cinematographer

Jery Hewitt

Stunt Coordinator

John Hoeren

Sound Editor

Ellen Huer

Foley

Jim Jackson

Driver

Treadwell Johnson

Driver

Bruce Kissel

Camera Operator

Rick Kline

Sound

Gladys Knight

Song Performer

Craig Knisek

Production Assistant

Gabor Kover

Assistant Camera Operator

David Kulczycki

Dialogue Editor

Sherman Labby

Visual Effects

Ronald Lamendola

Key Grip

Gregg Landaker

Sound

Greg Larson

Camera Operator

David V Lester

Unit Production Manager

Kathi Levine

Accounting Assistant

John B Lowry

Dolly Grip

Beth Lynk

Sound Editor

Patricia Macdonald

Other

Molly Maginnis

Costume Designer

Barbara Marks

Editing

Richard Marks

Editor

Clayton R Marsh

Other

Cindy Marty

Foley Editor

Steve Maslow

Sound

Steve Maurer

Craft Service

Melvin Mclean

Driver

David Metuier

Driver

Donald O Mitchell

Sound

Steve Monaghan

Driver

David Moritz

Assistant Editor

Mike Mulconnery

Assistant Editor

Robert Mullin

Other

Margaret Murphy

Production Assistant

Charles Naecker

Craft Service

Lindsey Nakaskima

Other

Stuart Neumann

Location Manager

Stephanie Ng

Apprentice

Kevin O'connell

Sound

Jeffrey A. Okun

Other

Richard Page

Other

Henry Parks

Electrician

Polly Platt

Executive Producer

Bob Powell

Driver

Peggy Pridemore

Location Assistant

David Rawlins

Editing

Buddy Reed

Best Boy

Dick Reynolds

Best Boy Grip

Joanne Reynolds

Medic

Charlene Richards

Adr

Lewis J Roberts

Accountant

John Roesch

Foley

Charles Rosen

Production Designer

Jeff Rosen

Adr Editor

Howard Sachs

Swing Gang

David Sardi

Assistant Director

Anthony J Scarano

Costumes

Van Scarboro

Video

Catherine Schellhorn

Other

Peter Schindler

Unit Director

Dave Shack

Other

David Siegel

Transportation Coordinator

Treva Silverman

Assistant

Frank Smathers

Dialogue Editor

Tracey Smith

Sound Editor

Stuart Stein

Assistant Camera Operator

Karen I Stern

Assistant Editor

Rich Steven

Sound Editor

Mark P. Stoeckinger

Foley Editor

Cynthia Streit

Production Manager

Richard Talbott

Other

Eugene Tillman

Driver

Frank Tobin

Best Boy

Frank Tobin

Electrician

James Utterback

Other

D C Valentine

Cable Operator

Robert J Van Dyke

Foreman

Cyndi Vaughan

Sound Editor

Verdel Veney

Driver

Mark Wade

Property Master

Robb Ward

Other

Jimmy Watson

Driver

Jim Weatherly

Song

Bob Webb

Other

Catherine Webb

Auditor

Stan Webber

Driver

Edward Weinberger

Assistant

Mike Wells

Foreman

Ricardo Whitson

Craft Service

Linda Whittlesey

Sound Effects Editor

Bobby Williams

Driver

Glenwood Williams

Driver

Frederick Wilson

Transportation Captain

Skip Wilson

Driver

Jack Winter

Assistant

James Woodward

Gaffer

Jim Woodward

Electrician

Gary Wright

Sound Editor

Eric Young

Driver

Gilbert Young

Driver

Kristi Zea

Art Director

Kristi Zea

Associate Producer

Susan Zirinsky

Technical Advisor

Susan Zirinsky

Associate Producer

Videos

Movie Clip

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Nyhetsfeber
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Release Date
1987
Production Company
D C Valentine
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox Distribution
Location
Alexandria, Virginia, USA; Washington, DC, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 13m

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1987
William Hurt

Best Actress

1987
Holly Hunter

Best Cinematography

1987

Best Editing

1987
Richard Marks

Best Original Screenplay

1987

Best Picture

1987

Best Supporting Actor

1987
Albert Brooks

Articles

Broadcast News


If anyone was well equipped to examine the state of broadcast journalism via cinematic comedy in 1987, it was James L. Brooks. His list of credentials for the task was more than impressive. He began working newsrooms and writing copy for breaking events, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in the early sixties, before breaking into prime time TV later in the decade. His first forays were less than illustrious, writing for such shows as My Mother the Car, but later, he created two groundbreaking shows, Room 222 and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and, from there, it just got better. After co-creating yet another highly acclaimed television show, Taxi, and making his first writing entry into the movies with the screenplay for Starting Over (1979), he finally went behind the camera as director with Terms of Endearment (1983), a movie that won him three Oscars, as director, writer, and producer, and put him atop the A-List of Hollywood royalty. In 1987, he used all of it - the experience in news, the experience in comedy, and the experience of exploring broadcast journalism in comedy on the small screen - to create Broadcast News, an exploration of journalistic ethics, corporate politics, and personal relationships that may well be his best movie.

The story of Broadcast News combines the elements of many romantic comedy love triangles while balancing it with an examination into the ethics and responsibility that journalists have towards their subjects and viewers. We watch the film's three main characters, Tom Grunick (William Hurt), Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), and Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), as young people in school and at home, in a brief prelude, that introduces their character types to the audience. It's a thoughtful and creative way of establishing their personalities for the audience quickly and humorously so that when we meet them as adults, mere minutes later, we feel we already know them. Tom is in an auditorium listening to broadcast news associate producer Jane lecture a thoroughly disinterested audience. After they all leave, only Tom is left and he and Jane discuss their career ambitions. Tom, as it turns out, is being brought into the network Jane works for as a reporter and it isn't long before Aaron, the journeyman reporter already on the job, begins to view Tom with both jealousy and suspicion. It's not just that he doesn't trust Tom, either his intellect or talents, he feels betrayed that Jane doesn't view him the exact same way.

The movie goes on to examine the politics and ethics of broadcast journalism in a way only previously done with broad satire in the 1976 film Network. Here, though, the study is taken seriously, despite the romantic comedy underpinnings. The idea of news as entertainment, of reporters becoming a part of the story they're only supposed to be reporting, and ambition, as people replace those more talented than themselves or try to insert themselves into jobs they can't do, are all covered here. The issues at the center of Broadcast News may not seem as compelling today but the moral center of those issues is still as vital and necessary to understand now as it was then. It's not the specific event as much as the general issue of honesty that's important, and how much, or little, should be expected from a viewer when watching a broadcast. At what point does a reporter's dishonesty help to illuminate a story, at what point does it become the story, and at what point does it distort the facts beyond their capacity to inform? All issues still at the forefront of journalistic debate today.

The cast of Broadcast News is exemplary. William Hurt was already well known, and an Oscar winner, by the time he starred in Broadcast News. He had made his name in the 1980 sci-fi thriller and satire, Altered States, playing an obsessed scientist before becoming a star as a dim but sexually charged lawyer in Body Heat (1981), showing his ability to pivot between playing intellectual and carnal with ease. His role as the decidedly non-intellectual Tom is one in which Hurt effortlessly portrays a character both ambitious and innocent all at once. The world befuddles and confuses him on many levels but a natural talent for calm, steady reporting and a persistent optimism keep him ahead of the game while others lag behind. It's one of Hurt's finest performances.

Holly Hunter had barely made a name for herself by the time Broadcast News was released, having appeared in small roles in television and movies for the six years leading up to it, with one exception, Raising Arizona, released only months before this one. It was her first big lead and coupled with Broadcast News, made 1987 the year Holly Hunter went from obscurity to overnight stardom. She was nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of a producer standing her ground on principle while others turn away. Later, she would win an Oscar herself for her great performance in The Piano (1993), but this performance may be the one most people will remember as her most complicated creation.

Finally, there is Albert Brooks, well known to anyone who had been paying attention to TV and offbeat comedy in the seventies and early eighties, but still relatively new to working strictly as an actor in other director's creations. He made his debut years before in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), but this movie was the one that earned him his first Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actor, for a performance that pretty much steals the show. The main thrust of the story may be the attraction and conflict between Tom and Jane, but it's Brooks' Aaron that drives the movie's moral center, pushing Jane towards a conclusion he knows will hurt her but one she must confront.

Broadcast News didn't win the Oscars that Terms of Endearment did but it has held up as a great examination of journalistic ethics. James L. Brooks would go on to more success, in both film and television, but never return to the cinematic world of broadcast journalism again. Perhaps this was his way of purging it from his system or perhaps, after years of working in it and writing about it, he said all he needed to say. He said it well enough that it still stands as one of the best comments on the business and one of the best movies of the eighties.

By Greg Ferrara
Broadcast News

Broadcast News

If anyone was well equipped to examine the state of broadcast journalism via cinematic comedy in 1987, it was James L. Brooks. His list of credentials for the task was more than impressive. He began working newsrooms and writing copy for breaking events, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in the early sixties, before breaking into prime time TV later in the decade. His first forays were less than illustrious, writing for such shows as My Mother the Car, but later, he created two groundbreaking shows, Room 222 and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and, from there, it just got better. After co-creating yet another highly acclaimed television show, Taxi, and making his first writing entry into the movies with the screenplay for Starting Over (1979), he finally went behind the camera as director with Terms of Endearment (1983), a movie that won him three Oscars, as director, writer, and producer, and put him atop the A-List of Hollywood royalty. In 1987, he used all of it - the experience in news, the experience in comedy, and the experience of exploring broadcast journalism in comedy on the small screen - to create Broadcast News, an exploration of journalistic ethics, corporate politics, and personal relationships that may well be his best movie. The story of Broadcast News combines the elements of many romantic comedy love triangles while balancing it with an examination into the ethics and responsibility that journalists have towards their subjects and viewers. We watch the film's three main characters, Tom Grunick (William Hurt), Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), and Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), as young people in school and at home, in a brief prelude, that introduces their character types to the audience. It's a thoughtful and creative way of establishing their personalities for the audience quickly and humorously so that when we meet them as adults, mere minutes later, we feel we already know them. Tom is in an auditorium listening to broadcast news associate producer Jane lecture a thoroughly disinterested audience. After they all leave, only Tom is left and he and Jane discuss their career ambitions. Tom, as it turns out, is being brought into the network Jane works for as a reporter and it isn't long before Aaron, the journeyman reporter already on the job, begins to view Tom with both jealousy and suspicion. It's not just that he doesn't trust Tom, either his intellect or talents, he feels betrayed that Jane doesn't view him the exact same way. The movie goes on to examine the politics and ethics of broadcast journalism in a way only previously done with broad satire in the 1976 film Network. Here, though, the study is taken seriously, despite the romantic comedy underpinnings. The idea of news as entertainment, of reporters becoming a part of the story they're only supposed to be reporting, and ambition, as people replace those more talented than themselves or try to insert themselves into jobs they can't do, are all covered here. The issues at the center of Broadcast News may not seem as compelling today but the moral center of those issues is still as vital and necessary to understand now as it was then. It's not the specific event as much as the general issue of honesty that's important, and how much, or little, should be expected from a viewer when watching a broadcast. At what point does a reporter's dishonesty help to illuminate a story, at what point does it become the story, and at what point does it distort the facts beyond their capacity to inform? All issues still at the forefront of journalistic debate today. The cast of Broadcast News is exemplary. William Hurt was already well known, and an Oscar winner, by the time he starred in Broadcast News. He had made his name in the 1980 sci-fi thriller and satire, Altered States, playing an obsessed scientist before becoming a star as a dim but sexually charged lawyer in Body Heat (1981), showing his ability to pivot between playing intellectual and carnal with ease. His role as the decidedly non-intellectual Tom is one in which Hurt effortlessly portrays a character both ambitious and innocent all at once. The world befuddles and confuses him on many levels but a natural talent for calm, steady reporting and a persistent optimism keep him ahead of the game while others lag behind. It's one of Hurt's finest performances. Holly Hunter had barely made a name for herself by the time Broadcast News was released, having appeared in small roles in television and movies for the six years leading up to it, with one exception, Raising Arizona, released only months before this one. It was her first big lead and coupled with Broadcast News, made 1987 the year Holly Hunter went from obscurity to overnight stardom. She was nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of a producer standing her ground on principle while others turn away. Later, she would win an Oscar herself for her great performance in The Piano (1993), but this performance may be the one most people will remember as her most complicated creation. Finally, there is Albert Brooks, well known to anyone who had been paying attention to TV and offbeat comedy in the seventies and early eighties, but still relatively new to working strictly as an actor in other director's creations. He made his debut years before in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), but this movie was the one that earned him his first Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actor, for a performance that pretty much steals the show. The main thrust of the story may be the attraction and conflict between Tom and Jane, but it's Brooks' Aaron that drives the movie's moral center, pushing Jane towards a conclusion he knows will hurt her but one she must confront. Broadcast News didn't win the Oscars that Terms of Endearment did but it has held up as a great examination of journalistic ethics. James L. Brooks would go on to more success, in both film and television, but never return to the cinematic world of broadcast journalism again. Perhaps this was his way of purging it from his system or perhaps, after years of working in it and writing about it, he said all he needed to say. He said it well enough that it still stands as one of the best comments on the business and one of the best movies of the eighties. By Greg Ferrara

Broadcast News - William Hurt, Holly Hunter & Albert Brooks in BROADCAST NEWS - The Criterion Collection Edition


James L. Brooks' romantic comedy Broadcast News presents an engaging picture of the transformation of America's national TV news in the 1980s, when the corporate consolidation of media got going in earnest. The wild satire of Paddy Chayefsky's earlier Network offered some remarkably prophetic opinions on the future of The News, but Brooks frames his commentary within a more or less conventional comedy-drama. Three ambitious and talented TV news people interact, but the expected love triangle never quite comes to pass. That's due to the involvement of a fourth player that can best be called The Career Imperative. Vital talents no longer hold down conventional jobs, but instead struggle to advance personal career arcs. Nothing separates one's working life from one's personal life. Screenwriter-director James L. Brooks' image of network news also dramatizes the commercial pressures that were then just beginning to blur the boundary between news information and entertainment. Twenty-five years later, there seems to be little or no distinction between the two.

The story takes place in the Washington news bureau of a major network. Aggressive young producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) pushes herself to achieve, all the while wondering if her obsessive attention to detail isn't holding back her love life. The highly educated Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) has no equal as a news writer and may be the best-informed on-location reporter in the business. He knows that he's not appreciated, and fears that he may never get a shot at more prestigious news work. He's also frustrated that the energetic Jane doesn't see him as boyfriend material. A new player enters in the person of the relatively inexperienced Tom Grunick (William Hurt), a newsreader without formal journalistic skills. Tom is attractive, personable and sincere, qualities that help him at work. He reads news copy in a way that engages his audience on a personal level -- viewers would never guess that he doesn't always understand the stories he reads. To Aaron's chagrin, Jane is immediately attracted to the handsome Tom.

Jane and Aaron's incisive reporting from war-torn Central America earns Jane kudos from senior producer Ernie Merriman (Robert Prosky). Jane and Tom enjoy a smashing success working a hastily organized special weekend report on a crisis in North Africa. Aaron's contribution is not recognized. Tom discovers that he's being groomed as the network's next top anchorman, when the present reigning celebrity Bill Rorich (Jack Nicholson) decides to retire. But a new round of budget cut layoffs puts everyone's future in danger. Convinced that he'll be dumped by his ungrateful employers, Aaron takes a shot at distinguishing himself as a replacement weekend anchor. Aaron has reported from battlefronts, keeping cool as bullets fly over his head. He's prepared and ready to ace the live camera trial, and has even been coached by Tom. So why does he feel like he's being led to a firing squad?

An amusing drama about the personal lives of three modern overachievers, Broadcast News thrives on a trio of delightful performances. Holly Hunter's Jane micromanages her life, taking quickie breaks for self-induced crying therapy, and giving explicit instructions to every taxi driver she encounters. A born organizer who does her best work under pressure, Jane goes straight for what she wants, which makes for an awkward scene when she tries to seduce Tom on their first meeting. The good-looking Tom has been an academic underachiever since childhood, yet his winning personality has never failed to open doors for him. Optimistic and understanding, he's applied himself to the problem of connecting with viewers on camera. While his colleagues rush to complete scripts and work out technical details, Tom closes his office door and carefully chooses his on-camera wardrobe.

Aaron can become arrogant about his talent but also harbors the fear that it's no longer appreciated. Surviving a company-wide layoff, he finds that he's been kept on only because his low salary makes him a bargain employee. Although Aaron is by far the best journalist of the three, he watches helplessly as his superior work benefits others. Tom and Jane are the ones being groomed for stardom.

Broadcast News is funny and endearing, but it also offers an accurate and somewhat disturbing picture of changes in the news industry. Brooks had worked as a CBS News writer decades before and was well aware of the drift away from hard news reporting that occurred when the network news divisions were suddenly forced to compete for viewer shares like any other TV entertainment. He raises the issue right at the beginning, when Jane Craig's college lecture on the decay of journalistic ethics falls on deaf ears. The up 'n' coming generation of broadcasters see nothing wrong with wasting the brief 22 minutes of nightly broadcast time on trivial stories, like Jane's example of a giant domino topple stunt.

The main conflict in the newsroom addresses Jane's discovery that Tom has "cheated" a news story by including a close-up of himself shedding a tear in an interview with a traumatized rape victim. While Aaron complains that Tom has shifted the story's focus from "important issue" to "sensitive star news man", Jane is shocked that Tom would fake the effect by re-enacting his reaction shot after the interview, and then editing it in, essentially adding a fictitious element to the news piece. Although nobody else is troubled by Tom's report, Jane feels that it is a betrayal of sacred journalistic ethics. What Jane doesn't seem to realize is that all news film puts an interpretation on the facts. Earlier in Nicaragua, she taped a close-up of a boot being tied to illustrate supplies reaching the Contra troops. She believes that if the cameraman tells the soldier to tie his laces, that's manipulation and a no-no. It's painfully obvious that her editorial choices and the presence of a full video crew are already manipulating reality.

Although the film charmed much of the news world -- a photo of its stars bumped Arnold Schwarzenegger from the cover of a December, 1987 issue of Newsweek -- some reviewers weren't as impressed with Jane and Tom's ethical conflict. Critic David Denby found the faked tear gimmick overstated and thought the Jane Craig character was naïve. Broadcaster Tom Brokaw opined that William Hurt's Tom wouldn't last as a news anchor, although the film stresses that Tom negotiates a contract that leaves others to take responsibility for the editorial content of the stories he reports. Tom's arrangement is more like the British BBC system, where the on-air personalities are regarded as "newsreaders", not news editors. Tom does exploit the rape story as a self-promotional springboard, but that practice has become a given state of affairs in a news environment that feeds off image and personality.

Broadcast News is beautifully directed and acted, whether the setting is the newsroom, a private party or a gala formal banquet. The three leads are cast to perfection, with Albert Brooks and William Hurt turning in what may be their best performances to date. Also notable is Joan Cusack's Blair, the newsroom workhorse whose enthusiasm and loyalty won't be rewarded, and Lois Chiles as Jennifer Mack, an attractive field reporter that takes a shine to Tom. The script is at its most honest when it shows Jane removing Jennifer as a romantic competitor by literally shipping her off to Alaska. No taint of wrongdoing rubs off on Jane, who, if one really examines her progress, is a user who advances only with the help of colleagues like Blair, Aaron and the lowly video editor, all of whom are considered expendable hired help.

The movie is a document of the new careerist lifestyle in which romance and raising a family are secondary goals. The Aaron-Jane-Tom triangle never really comes together. One friend takes a trophy wife, another attempts a long distance marriage with a mate in a different city and the third settles for a less stressful job in a smaller news market. Broadcast News remains relevant because it paints its picture of work in the '80s in depth, offering telling details instead of broad satire. And it's believable: when a colleague grouses about a coming round of layoffs, Tom replies that similar house-cleanings occurred regularly at every place he ever worked. Today, opportunities for young talent like James L. Brooks, who began by writing impressive documentaries and news specials in the 1960s, are more elusive than ever.

Criterion's Blu-ray (and standard DVD) of Broadcast News presents James L. Brooks' best film in a glowing, director approved Hi-def transfer. The personable Brooks and his editor Richard Marks contribute to a feature commentary, and Brooks becomes even more candid while commenting on a deleted ending and other cut scenes. The new docu A Singular Voice covers Brooks' long career with hit TV series and movies, using input from much of the talent he worked with on shows from Room 222 through The Simpsons. A new interview profiles CBS news producer Susan Zirinsky, reputed to be a model for the film's Jane Craig character. An on-set featurette with the stars and a trailer round out the extras; an insert booklet contains an essay by critic Carrie Rickey.

For more information about Broadcast News, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Broadcast News, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

Broadcast News - William Hurt, Holly Hunter & Albert Brooks in BROADCAST NEWS - The Criterion Collection Edition

James L. Brooks' romantic comedy Broadcast News presents an engaging picture of the transformation of America's national TV news in the 1980s, when the corporate consolidation of media got going in earnest. The wild satire of Paddy Chayefsky's earlier Network offered some remarkably prophetic opinions on the future of The News, but Brooks frames his commentary within a more or less conventional comedy-drama. Three ambitious and talented TV news people interact, but the expected love triangle never quite comes to pass. That's due to the involvement of a fourth player that can best be called The Career Imperative. Vital talents no longer hold down conventional jobs, but instead struggle to advance personal career arcs. Nothing separates one's working life from one's personal life. Screenwriter-director James L. Brooks' image of network news also dramatizes the commercial pressures that were then just beginning to blur the boundary between news information and entertainment. Twenty-five years later, there seems to be little or no distinction between the two. The story takes place in the Washington news bureau of a major network. Aggressive young producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) pushes herself to achieve, all the while wondering if her obsessive attention to detail isn't holding back her love life. The highly educated Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) has no equal as a news writer and may be the best-informed on-location reporter in the business. He knows that he's not appreciated, and fears that he may never get a shot at more prestigious news work. He's also frustrated that the energetic Jane doesn't see him as boyfriend material. A new player enters in the person of the relatively inexperienced Tom Grunick (William Hurt), a newsreader without formal journalistic skills. Tom is attractive, personable and sincere, qualities that help him at work. He reads news copy in a way that engages his audience on a personal level -- viewers would never guess that he doesn't always understand the stories he reads. To Aaron's chagrin, Jane is immediately attracted to the handsome Tom. Jane and Aaron's incisive reporting from war-torn Central America earns Jane kudos from senior producer Ernie Merriman (Robert Prosky). Jane and Tom enjoy a smashing success working a hastily organized special weekend report on a crisis in North Africa. Aaron's contribution is not recognized. Tom discovers that he's being groomed as the network's next top anchorman, when the present reigning celebrity Bill Rorich (Jack Nicholson) decides to retire. But a new round of budget cut layoffs puts everyone's future in danger. Convinced that he'll be dumped by his ungrateful employers, Aaron takes a shot at distinguishing himself as a replacement weekend anchor. Aaron has reported from battlefronts, keeping cool as bullets fly over his head. He's prepared and ready to ace the live camera trial, and has even been coached by Tom. So why does he feel like he's being led to a firing squad? An amusing drama about the personal lives of three modern overachievers, Broadcast News thrives on a trio of delightful performances. Holly Hunter's Jane micromanages her life, taking quickie breaks for self-induced crying therapy, and giving explicit instructions to every taxi driver she encounters. A born organizer who does her best work under pressure, Jane goes straight for what she wants, which makes for an awkward scene when she tries to seduce Tom on their first meeting. The good-looking Tom has been an academic underachiever since childhood, yet his winning personality has never failed to open doors for him. Optimistic and understanding, he's applied himself to the problem of connecting with viewers on camera. While his colleagues rush to complete scripts and work out technical details, Tom closes his office door and carefully chooses his on-camera wardrobe. Aaron can become arrogant about his talent but also harbors the fear that it's no longer appreciated. Surviving a company-wide layoff, he finds that he's been kept on only because his low salary makes him a bargain employee. Although Aaron is by far the best journalist of the three, he watches helplessly as his superior work benefits others. Tom and Jane are the ones being groomed for stardom. Broadcast News is funny and endearing, but it also offers an accurate and somewhat disturbing picture of changes in the news industry. Brooks had worked as a CBS News writer decades before and was well aware of the drift away from hard news reporting that occurred when the network news divisions were suddenly forced to compete for viewer shares like any other TV entertainment. He raises the issue right at the beginning, when Jane Craig's college lecture on the decay of journalistic ethics falls on deaf ears. The up 'n' coming generation of broadcasters see nothing wrong with wasting the brief 22 minutes of nightly broadcast time on trivial stories, like Jane's example of a giant domino topple stunt. The main conflict in the newsroom addresses Jane's discovery that Tom has "cheated" a news story by including a close-up of himself shedding a tear in an interview with a traumatized rape victim. While Aaron complains that Tom has shifted the story's focus from "important issue" to "sensitive star news man", Jane is shocked that Tom would fake the effect by re-enacting his reaction shot after the interview, and then editing it in, essentially adding a fictitious element to the news piece. Although nobody else is troubled by Tom's report, Jane feels that it is a betrayal of sacred journalistic ethics. What Jane doesn't seem to realize is that all news film puts an interpretation on the facts. Earlier in Nicaragua, she taped a close-up of a boot being tied to illustrate supplies reaching the Contra troops. She believes that if the cameraman tells the soldier to tie his laces, that's manipulation and a no-no. It's painfully obvious that her editorial choices and the presence of a full video crew are already manipulating reality. Although the film charmed much of the news world -- a photo of its stars bumped Arnold Schwarzenegger from the cover of a December, 1987 issue of Newsweek -- some reviewers weren't as impressed with Jane and Tom's ethical conflict. Critic David Denby found the faked tear gimmick overstated and thought the Jane Craig character was naïve. Broadcaster Tom Brokaw opined that William Hurt's Tom wouldn't last as a news anchor, although the film stresses that Tom negotiates a contract that leaves others to take responsibility for the editorial content of the stories he reports. Tom's arrangement is more like the British BBC system, where the on-air personalities are regarded as "newsreaders", not news editors. Tom does exploit the rape story as a self-promotional springboard, but that practice has become a given state of affairs in a news environment that feeds off image and personality. Broadcast News is beautifully directed and acted, whether the setting is the newsroom, a private party or a gala formal banquet. The three leads are cast to perfection, with Albert Brooks and William Hurt turning in what may be their best performances to date. Also notable is Joan Cusack's Blair, the newsroom workhorse whose enthusiasm and loyalty won't be rewarded, and Lois Chiles as Jennifer Mack, an attractive field reporter that takes a shine to Tom. The script is at its most honest when it shows Jane removing Jennifer as a romantic competitor by literally shipping her off to Alaska. No taint of wrongdoing rubs off on Jane, who, if one really examines her progress, is a user who advances only with the help of colleagues like Blair, Aaron and the lowly video editor, all of whom are considered expendable hired help. The movie is a document of the new careerist lifestyle in which romance and raising a family are secondary goals. The Aaron-Jane-Tom triangle never really comes together. One friend takes a trophy wife, another attempts a long distance marriage with a mate in a different city and the third settles for a less stressful job in a smaller news market. Broadcast News remains relevant because it paints its picture of work in the '80s in depth, offering telling details instead of broad satire. And it's believable: when a colleague grouses about a coming round of layoffs, Tom replies that similar house-cleanings occurred regularly at every place he ever worked. Today, opportunities for young talent like James L. Brooks, who began by writing impressive documentaries and news specials in the 1960s, are more elusive than ever. Criterion's Blu-ray (and standard DVD) of Broadcast News presents James L. Brooks' best film in a glowing, director approved Hi-def transfer. The personable Brooks and his editor Richard Marks contribute to a feature commentary, and Brooks becomes even more candid while commenting on a deleted ending and other cut scenes. The new docu A Singular Voice covers Brooks' long career with hit TV series and movies, using input from much of the talent he worked with on shows from Room 222 through The Simpsons. A new interview profiles CBS news producer Susan Zirinsky, reputed to be a model for the film's Jane Craig character. An on-set featurette with the stars and a trailer round out the extras; an insert booklet contains an essay by critic Carrie Rickey. For more information about Broadcast News, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Broadcast News, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States February 1988 (Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 1988.)

Released in United States on Video September 1, 1988

Released in United States Winter December 16, 1987

Voted Best Actress (Hunter) by the 1987 National Board of Review.

Voted Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Hunter), and Best Screenplay by the 1987 New York Film Critics Circle.

Released in United States February 1988

Released in United States on Video September 1, 1988

Released in United States Winter December 16, 1987

Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 1988.

Began shooting February 2, 1987.

Completed shooting October 1987.