In the 1970s, the name James L. Brooks (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, Terms of Endearment, The Simpsons) was synonymous with intelligent television comedy—his shows were insightful about work and love and always tapped into the zeitgeist. With his transition to film in the 1980s, he became a master Hollywood storyteller, and none of his films was more quintessentially Brooks than Broadcast News. This caustic inside look at the Washington news media stars Holly Hunter (Raising Arizona, The Piano), in her breakout role, as a feisty television producer torn between an ambitious yet dim anchorman (William Hurt) and her closest confidant, a cynical veteran reporter (Albert Brooks). Brooks’s witty, gently prophetic entertainment is a captivating transmission from an era in which ideas on love and media were rapidly changing.
Even if the Criterion edition of Broadcast News didn't contain an assortment of supporting materials, it would be welcome just for the definitive transfer of a movie that hadn't been served well by previous DVD editions. But the supporting materials don't hurt, especially the commentary track from writer-director James L. Brooks and editor Richard Marks--which is mostly taken up with stories told by the enthusiastic Brooks. A 36-minute featurette about Brooks's career is curiously incomplete; it gathers collaborators such as Julie Kavner and Marilu Henner to talk about their boss, but mostly relies on critic Ken Tucker to describe Brooks's work from TV to film (with entire movies--namely I'll Do Anything and "i"Spanglish--left out). An alternate ending to "i"Broadcast News, included here, gives a hint of what might have been, although you'll be glad Brooks stuck with his release version--and there's a choice anecdote about an attempt to surprise Holly Hunter during the sequence, which was a re-shoot taken well after the main filming had ended. A series of deleted scenes includes a good-sized subplot that details how William Hurt's character got the scoops that brought him to attention (the commentary by Brooks on these scenes is more valuable than the scenes themselves). A 17-minute profile of Susan Zirinsky, the journalist who worked closely with Brooks, gives hints about where some of the details about Hunter's character came from, including her oddly youthful costuming. Now we know. --Robert Horton