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BROADCAST NEWS(director/writer: James L. Brooks; cinematographer: Michael Ballhaus; editor: Richard Marks; music: Bill Conti; cast: William Hurt (Tom Grunick), Albert Brooks (Aaron Altman), Holly Hunter (Jane Craig), Lois Chiles (Jennifer Mack), Joan Cusack ( Blair Litton), Robert Prosky (Ernie Merriman), Peter Hackes (Paul Moore), Jack Nicholson (Bill Rorich), Christian Clemenson (Bobby); Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: R; producer: James L. Brooks; 20th Century Fox; 1987)
“The outstanding set pieces give the viewer an idea of the job pressures, its perks, pitfalls and how the news is in the long run compromised.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A lively fictionalized behind the scenes look at TV news based on writer-director James L. Brooks’ (“Terms of Endearment”/”As Good As It Gets”/”Spanglish”) stay at CBS. This pleasing romantic comedy thankfully has an intelligent script that covers a love triangle, professional ambitions in the newsroom, how hiring and firing decisions are made and how the news gets covered.

Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) is the plain-looking, outspoken, feisty, brainy and efficient hard-driving producer at the network news division’s Washington D.C. branch, who despite her career success leads an empty personal life. Her confidante is veteran correspondent Aaron Altman (Brooks), who share intimacies about the workplace, possess a similar humor and confess to having the same elevated work standards; but romance seems to be only held on the back burner for the two soul mates. Along comes hunky, presentable and not too bright Tom Grunick (William Hurt), a former sports reporter on local news who finds himself promoted to the network news division’s Washington D.C. branch because of his ability to connect with the viewers even though he doesn’t have the knowledge for the new job. Tom’s greatest asset is that he looks cool reading from the teleprompter and is able to brush off his inability to grasp facts or decipher what’s news worthy, and even confesses to Jane “Half the time I don’t get half the news that I’m talking about.”

The pushy Jane and the sly Tom find it convenient to partner together because she helps him get through the show without looking like an ass and he makes for an ideal lover for her in Washington; that is, until the anchorman uses phony unethical tricks (like crying on cue for the camera during a heartbreaking date-rape victim interview) to rise quickly to the top and this sneaky act turns Jane off to him. Meanwhile the more qualified, creative and intelligent Aaron seems to be taken for granted as being reliable and is overlooked by the bosses; even though Aaron has the knowledge needed for Tom’s job, he doesn’t have the looks or presence to please the corporate types who run the show and gets passed over for a weekend anchor spot. While Jane is hampered by her genius, as others feel threatened that she knows everything and doesn’t mind letting them know.

James Brooks uses this melodramatic newsroom scenario to satirize the industry and how the media operateswith an eye out more for ratings thanforhaving the best personnel on the job (not ashamed to lower reporting standards to be more entertaining). The outstanding set pieces give the viewer an idea of the job pressures, its perks, pitfalls and how the news is in the long run compromised.

An excellent support cast features Jack Nicholson as a smarmy network New York anchor, Robert Prosky as the veteran Washington bureau chief with a heart, Peter Hackes as the big boss without a heart, Joan Cusack as the hardworking behind-the-scenes newsperson who gets screwed when cutbacks are made and Lois Chiles as the gorgeous nice girl in the newsroom trying to play fair in the romance department by the unwritten rules.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”