Review: Broadcast News (1987)

Composer: Bill Conti, Michael Gore and Michel Cimilo

Label: Varese Sarabande

Catalogue Nr.: VCL 1105 1042

James L. Brook's smartly satire Broadcast News was one of 20th Century Fox's prestige projects in the late 80's which received a lot of praise and was nominated for no less than seven academy awards, including best writing, screenplay and picture. It offers a caustic peek at the many different facets of TV news business spiced with a love triangle between the three different main characters who could not be more different from each other: Tom Grunnick is the pretty but not too intelligent anchor-boy who sees the news as just another form of entertaining the masses and is just trying to sell himself as good as possible. The network's news producer Jane Craig and the talented correspondent Aaron completely despise Tom's attitude but that does not save Jane from developing strong feelings for Tom. Actors Hurt, Hunter and Brooks all deliver some of their best moments in their roles which definitely sold the entire film and made it the hit with the critics and audience that it was.

The score:

James L. Brooks is notorious for being a perfectionist about every aspect of a production which is most likely due to his background as a producer and composer Bill Conti had to experience that when he did the score for Broadcast News. Brooks asked Conti to write something that would make him cry but he was never really satisfied with Conti's output. 40 scoring sessions and three composers later there were 2 1/2 hours of music which finally contained a suitable score for the film that meet the demands of director Brooks but one can definitely notice the troubled creation of the music. This music is naturally very different from Conti's powerhouse scores like Masters of the Universe from the same year but that's not the problem. His score for Broadcast News simply lacks of a strong identity unlike Conti's other more subtle work like Slow Dancing In The Big City (1978). The majority of the score consists of jazzy source music for various party situations and the rest is subtle romantic piano playing interrupted with some reservedly light-hearted orchestral moments. Conti himself called the movie a 'talkie', obviously due to the importance of the dialogue, which was the reason for the rather subtle approach.

"Young Tom" is introducing some sort of main theme and goes right into "Young Jane / Main Title". Both cues make only limited use of the orchestra with a light-hearted bouncy comedic sound ala Elmer Bernstein. Mainly cues from the first half of the score are more on the comedic and sometimes tumultuous side, like "First Day", "Old News Theme" or "Tom's Rise". However, that's the minority. The piano is the main instrument of the emotional underscore of Broadcast News which creates some nice, tender moments as the love triangle between the characters thickens in such cues like "Jefferson Memorial", "Jane Calls Tom" and "Firings". Although Conti's versions of these cues did not make the cut and Michael Gore's takes ended up in the film. The original versions as intended by Conti are included on the CD but they come along as rather unspectacular. This is actually one of the few instances where re-scoring by a secondary composer actually helped the score a little but it also leads to inconsistency.

Then there is the source music in cues like "Piano One", "Post-Report Celebration", "News Theme Ballad", "Italian Embassy" and "Dinner Dance". Some of these cues are quite enjoyable, most notably the tender "Post-Report Celebration" and the softly swinging "Dinner Dance" but they simply break the flow of the underscore because they don't offer any musical development. They are just... there and it does not really help the score much.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 58%

Score as heard on CD: 60%

TOTAL: 59%

 

The presentation:

The score is now a part of the Varese Sarabande CD Club as a limited edition of 2000 copies. The liner notes are the highlight of the presentation which are pretty enjoyable to read, very informative and even offer comments by Bill Conti about his experience with Broadcast News.   68 minutes of the 2 1/2 hours of recordings are included on this CD which is the entire score as heard in the film plus various alternate and unused versions as originally intended by Bill Conti. The sounds quality is good but at times the quiet underscore seems to be mixed a little bit too loud.

Presentation by the Label: 76%

 

Summary:

Broadcast News is a break from Bill Conti's big orchestral sound but sadly it's just your typical romantic comedy score with all clichés the genre has to offer - nothing more and nothing less. The subtle score even lacks of a strong identity due to endless re-scoring and the involvement of two other composers. Sure, after 40 scoring sessions the chances are slim that a composition can remain enough consistency to make an enjoyable listening experience on CD. As it is, Broadcast News just comes, goes and leaves the listener highly unsatisfied. I would recommend to enjoy the score by watching the nice film. The CD only makes for nice background music when you are doing other things and is only recommended to Bill Conti completists. If you seek a strong but subtle Conti score you should go for Slow Dancing In The Big City (1978) instead, not to mention that this one is paired with the excellent score for F.I.S.T. (1978) on the same CD.

 

                                     Tracklisting:

01. Young Tom (01:44)
02. Young Jane / Main Title (02:43)
03. Tom And Jane (01:36)
04. Phone Call (01:22)
05. First Day (00:46)
06. Blair’s Run (01:33)
07. Old News Theme (00:40)
08. Tom’s Rise (01:41)
09. The Special Report (01:53)
10. Piano One (01:55)
11. Bonding (01:05)
12. Post-Report Celebration (01:35)
13. Friendship (01:00)
14. News Theme Ballad (02:25) **
15. Italian Embassy (02:40)
16. Potentially Bad News (01:52)
17. Tailor Made (01:30)
18. Correspondents Dinner (01:20)
19. Dinner Dance (01:07)
20. Jefferson Memorial (02:07) *
21. Dead Lead (00:28)
22. Jane Calls Tom (00:38) *
23. Storm Clouds (00:38)
24. The Firings Begin (02:09)
25. Firings (01:11) *
26. The Kiss (00:44) *
27. Restaurant Farewell (01:38)
28. The Tear Falls (01:41)
29. Airport (02:13)
30. Gazebo (01:44)
 

BONUS TRACKS:

31. Young Tom (Original - 01:14)
32. Young Tom Part 2 (Original - 00:54)
33. First Day (Alternate - 01:03)
34. The Special Report Part 1 (Original - 00:41)
35. Post-Report Celebration (Alternate - 01:41)*
36. Friendship (Original - 01:18)
37. Italian Embassy (Original - 02:39)
38. Italian Embassy (Alternate - 02:43)
39. Tailor Made (Original Version - 01:31)
40. Correspondents Dinner (Original - 01:19)
41. Correspondents Dinner (Alternate - 01:18)
42. Jefferson Memorial (Original - 02:02)
43. Jane Calls Tom (Original - 00:55)
44. Firings (Original - 02:09)

* composed by Michael Gore

** composed by Michel Cimilo

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