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Gordon S. Miller Written by Gordon S. Miller
Feb. 7, 2011 | 10:20 PM
DVD of the Week

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BROADCAST NEWS: The Criterion Collection

Written by Hombre Divertido

Few writers are able to capture the human condition as well as James L. Brooks who honed his skills by writing for some of the most memorable television shows of the sixties and seventies including: The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons, That Girl, Room 222, Mary Tyler Moore, Taxi, and many others.  In the eighties he would break onto the big screen with Terms of Endearment in 1983.  He would follow that four years later with arguably his greatest accomplishment as he would write, produce, and direct Broadcast News.

Broadcast News displays his ability to write humorous dialog without writing jokes, and we see that clearly as we are invited into the world of television news and the lives of passive aggressive reporter Tom Grunick (William Hurt), Type A producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), and the news teams everyman Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks).  James L. Brooks has managed to create characters with so much depth that it makes them incredibly relatable to the audience and leaves us longing for the next word from their mouths.  Broadcast News truly leaves the audience wanting more.

Though a little early for a 25th anniversary release; the Criterion Collection brought Broadcast News to the shelves with a two-disc DVD Special Edition on January 25th 2011.  This new release includes some fine bonus material with a restored high definition transfer of the film.  The film looks and sounds great and the bonus material makes for a well-rounded presentation that allows insight into all aspects of the film.

The documentary “James L. Brooks - A Singular Voice” is a well-made piece on his career with interesting interviews with those involved in many of his efforts.  Most noticeably missing from the documentary is James L. Brooks himself, and this does leave the documentary a bit incomplete.  Luckily we do get some info from him in some of the other bonus material.

In most cases, when films get the “Special Edition” treatment, deleted scenes and alternate endings add little value as it is quite obvious why the scenes were deleted and alternate endings were not used.  That is not the case here.  Over the years, the ending for Broadcast News has been a topic of much discussion amongst critics and fans alike.  Finally some insight into James L. Brooks’ thought process is available as he sets up the alternate ending for us.  The deleted scenes also go above and beyond as we are introduced to a new character and an entire storyline that changes the Tom Grunick character.  The storyline is interesting, but the impact on the youthful innocence of Grunick is tarnished, and subsequently, it had to go.  The interview with CBS news producer Susan Zirinsky who served as an inspiration for the Jane Craig character, as well as an associate producer on the film, is a great piece that covers far more than just the impact that she had on the production.

The featurette which is touted as containing on-set footage and interviews with both Brooks and Hunter is not only hard to find due to the format of the menu, but it also a bit oversold as it plays out more like an extended trailer for the film. The packaging for this release leave a lot to be desired as it fails to capture the fun energy of the film, and actually looks faded and worn out.

Recommendation:  Broadcast News is a great film with a foundation built on strong characters and brilliant dialog.  The bonus material makes this a must-have for even those who already own the film.

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