Review: Broadcast News Criterion DVD

STUDIO: Criterion Collection | DIRECTOR: James L. Brooks | CAST: Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, William Hurt, Jack Nicholson, Lois Chiles
RELEASE DATE: 1/25/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $39.95
BONUSES: commentary, new documentary on James L. Brooks, deleted scenes and alternate ending with commentary, more
SPECS: R | 132 min. | Comedy drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

This edition of Broadcast News marks the first time the work of writer/director/producer James L. Brooks (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Terms of Endearment, The Simpsons, so much more) has been gotten the star treatment from the Criterion Collection.

Brooks’ 1987 film is the quintessential “dramedy,” that awfully named hybrid that promises laughs, love, seriousness and some issues. There are lots of dramadies out there, but Brooks’ well-acted story of the romantic and professional triangle of spunky Washington TV news producer Holly Hunter (The Incredibles), doltish golden-boy anchorman William Hurt (A.I. Artificial Intelligence) and brilliant but self-loathing news writer Albert Brooks (Lost in America) remains one of the best. Viewing Broadcast News today, it’s amazing how prescient it was about the rise of sensationalistic news reporting and the sweetening of new content to spark ratings. Fox News didn’t go on the air until 1996…

Criterion did a nice job on the newly produced special features on the DVD, which are all being seen for the first time (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment never outfitted its Broadcast News DVD with anything) and are worth checking out. Leading off is a solid 35-minute documentary on Brooks’ career, which features an intelligent analysis by critic Ken Tucker (who calls him “one of the great humanists of television history”) and comments from actors Julie Kavner (Rhoda and The Simpsons) and Marilu Henner (Taxi). The commentary by Brooks and his editor Richard Marks is informative, with Brooks frequently marveling over the talents of his cast.

Most interesting is the alternate ending — which comes with a gimmick: Brooks contributes a commentary (not an optional one) as the ending plays and he watches it for first time since it was shot 25 years ago. Brooks reveals that preview audiences enjoyed the film, but they wanted some kind of resolution to the “romantic triangle where nobody gets together at the end.” So he shot a mostly improvised sequence between Hunter and Hurt where he doesn’t get on the plane to the tropics but rather jumps into a cab with her. Of course, the original ending is better, but this alternate take is definitely one of the more interesting “lost scenes” to appear from a movie that’s already considered to be a classic.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.