Broadcast News (1987)

“He will be attractive! He’ll be nice and helpful. He’ll get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation. He’ll never do an evil thing! He’ll never deliberately hurt a living thing… he will just bit by little bit lower our standards where they are important. Just a tiny little bit. Just coax along flash over substance. Just a tiny little bit. And he’ll talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he’ll get all the great women.”

‘Broadcast News’, directed by James L Brooks in 1987, is an American romantic comedy set at a television news network. Holly Hunter plays Jane Craig, a news producer who is highly strung but ambitious. She is at the centre of a love triangle between her, and honourable but untelegenic colleague Aaron Altman, played by Albert Brooks, and a new hotshot, the charismatic but inexperienced Tom Grunick, played by William Hurt. She is drawn to Grunick, but his approach to the news and his willingness to fake emotion to make a story more powerful drives a wedge between them. Meanwhile, Altman tries desperately to get in front on the camera as an anchor, but with disastrous results. It’s a film that embeds the romance and the satire within a powerful dissection of the ethics of journalism. The love triangle is the perfect structure for this: the ambitious Craig is pulled between the intelligent Altman who is unwilling to play the corporate game, and Grunick, who uses every trick in the book to cover up his lack of skill. There are stand out comedy moments: a production runner played by Joan Cusack fulfils her jib title by performing an Indiana Jones style obstacle dash to get a VT in the machine, whilst Altman’s first appearance as an anchor is compromised by a flop sweat that slowly drenches him. The main source of the comedy is in the fast paced, witty script. There is a hint of Aaron Sorkin in this film in both the dialogue and in the ‘behind the scenes’ revelations, but the use of the romance to unpack these really makes this film fly.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s a witty, sharp satire. Watch in a double bill with ‘Network’ for a parallel setting with a different edge.


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