Broadcast News (1987), written and directed by James L. Brooks, is a romantic dramedy that also serves as a satire on the changing state of journalism. The film follows Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), an ambitious news producer, and her best friend Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), a witty but cynical journalist who is secretly in love with her. Aaron’s romantic dreams are interrupted when Tom Grunick (William Hurt), a likable but inexperienced anchor, joins the station and Jane becomes interested in him.
Surrounding this love triangle is the inner workings of television news. On Tom’s first day at the station, he shadows Jane as she is in post-production on Aaron’s segment. Jane, who insists the piece needs to be perfect, goes down to the wire as the broadcast is minutes away. When she finally approves the edit, madness ensues as assistant director Blair Litton (Joan Cusack) rushes with the VHS tape to the control room. As Blair is sprinting through the newsroom, she ducks under opened filing cabinets, rams into a water fountain, and even jumps over a toddler—but she makes it just in time for air.
Broadcast News plays off tropes of the typical romantic comedy. Jane never really commits to Aaron nor Tom and is more dedicated to her career. When you think that Jane will finally find romantic happiness, her journalistic ethics are too important to her after an incident with Tom.
Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks’ chemistry is a shining moment in the film. From the moment their characters interact, you can feel the bond they have. They quip at each other without any hurt feelings and can communicate effortlessly. When the two are on the phone deciding where to meet, Aaron merely says, “I’ll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that one time” and Jane instantly knows where he’s thinking of. The number of one-liners delivered by Aaron are endless and I was still discovering new ones while laughing along with my favourites.
Set in the late 1980’s, the changing business of journalism is becoming apparent in Jane’s newsroom. The inexperienced Tom is promoted because of his ability to boost ratings while major layoffs occur in the news division. Aaron desperately wants to anchor, but he scoffs when his face does not test well in a focus group. At the beginning of the film, Jane is giving a presentation about the growing lack of commitment networks have in reporting hard news. Her audience is extremely inattentive to important political stories but perks up when she angrily plays a video of thousands of dominoes falling.
Nominated for seven Academy Awards, Broadcast News is a clever approach to the romantic comedy genre and gives a fascinating look into a newsroom.