Written and directed by James L. Brooks, a smart news producer and well educated news reporter clash with a handsome man who is chosen to be an anchorman.
In 1963 in Kansas City Gerald Grunick (Stephen Mendillo) comes out of a restaurant and gets into his truck for Grunick’s Restaurant Supply. He talks to his son Tom about the comments of the waitresses, and the boy says he does not know what they mean when they talk about his looks and say “beat ‘em off with a stick.” His father smiles and hopes that is his only problem, but Tom says he got his report with 3 Cs, 2 Ds, and an incomplete. His father says he sees him studying hard, and Tom says he will study harder. He hands the report card to his father and asks him to sign it. His father offers to get him a tutor, and Tom says that would be great. He asks what can one do if all he can do is look good. He is a future anchorman.
Young Aaron is giving his school’s graduation speech before his 15th birthday. He says if he had felt appreciated, he would not have been in such a hurry to graduate. He hopes that the next excellent student will not be made to feel like such an outcast. He is looking forward to college and says it is the happiest day in his life.
Outside graduates are bullying Aaron as he taunts the boy hitting him that he will never make more than $19,000 a year. They push him around, and a bully hits him in the mouth. They walk away as he tells him that he will never leave South Boston, but he will see the whole world. He is to become a network news reporter.
In 1968 in Atlanta young Jane is typing at home. Her father comes into her room and tells her it is time to go to sleep. She says she has only a couple more letters to write. He tells her not to get obsessive about these things and says good night. She thinks and then goes into the living-room and tells him not to throw a word like “obsessive” around so carelessly. She explains it is a psychiatric term that implies one has no other interests. She advises him to be more precise in his use of words. She is a future news producer.
Years later Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) walks to the newspaper boxes and buys each newspaper. She walks back to her hotel room and calls someone and says they are to meet in the lobby in thirty minutes. She says she likes working with this person. She hangs up and calls Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) who tells her to turn on her television because Arnold Schwarzenegger is on two interview shows. She says they had the wrong missile graphic on at six in the morning. They called her and told her they have to take even cheaper rooms on the road now. He says Arnold is now making $3 million a movie. She will see him in the lobby in a half hour. She hangs up and sits meditating for a while and then starts crying.
A bus stops, and people get off. Aaron asks if he can talk to a young man who tells him to keep away from him.
Jane is watching this on a monitor, and Aaron tells her to watch the next part where the guy says the word “fuck” over and over and asks if he can use that. Aaron says it depends on how big a news day it is. Jane laughs and says she can’t believe he said that. She says he really opened up to Aaron who urges her to work on her speech. She says it makes her nervous thinking about it.
Jane is speaking at the Conference of Local Television News Reporters and says the networks are increasingly influenced by the star system. She says the powerful anchormen may be their last best hope, and she says their profession is in danger. She says the current group is still qualified and tied to their best traditions, but she asks who is going to follow these men. She says they are being pressured to take a loyalty oath to profit an economy. In the audience Tom Grunick (William Hurt) says wow, and the pretty woman next to him says she knows so many women like that who do not like their looks and become angry. Jane moves the microphone aside and says they all know what she is talking about. She says they all act tougher than they are, but they care. She asks if they are terrified by what is happening. People start leaving, and she goes back to using the microphone and skips over most of her speech. She says she was going to show them a tape from the news on one night when all the networks carried the same story, but not one noticed a major shift in the SALT II disarmament talks. Instead they showed a video of dominos falling over in intricate patterns resulting in the launching of a dummy astronaut off the ground. They laugh and applaud. She says it is fun to watch, but it is not news. Most people leave. She says they are lucky that they like it because they are going to get more just like it. She says thank you and sits next to a man on the stage who says there will be no Q & A. Tom comes back in and tells her she was great, and he introduces himself. He shakes her hand as she says thank you. She sits down and says they hated her, but she does not hate them. He says it is said that if you can reach one person, it means something. He sits down and says she did that. She asks if he would like to have dinner with her. He laughs and says sure.
Tom and Jane are walking on the campus and she asks if this is dull. He says no. She says her room is near there and asks if he wants to keep talking. He says he does.
Jane is kneeling on one side of the bed, and Tom kneels on the other so that the bed becomes a kind of table. He says he got this job on a fluke and asks her to wait until she hears how it ends up. He holds a pillow and says he was doing sports at the station. The newspaper ran an untrue story that he was leaving, and they got so much protest mail that they made him anchor. She says that is great; but he says he is no good at what he is being successful at. She crawls onto the bed, asks how he is at back-rubs, and lies on her stomach. He stands up and walks to the door. She sits up on the bed and says it is normal how he feels. In graduate school everyone thought the only mistake the admissions committee made was letting them in. He says he does not lack confidence, and he is not bad at making contact with people; but he feels like he is pretending to be a reporter, and half the time he does not understand the news he is talking about. He is not down on himself. He asks her to trust him and says he stinks. She says she trusts him. He says he did not even have a chance to become good at sports. She suggests the obvious remedy of getting a job in a newspaper. He says he does not write, but that did not stop him from sending his audition tapes to the bigger stations and the networks. She says it is his life, and no one is tying him to the fast track. She asks if he went to college, and he slumps over. She says he is not well educated and has little experience and can’t write. He agrees but says he is making a fortune. She says it is hard for her to advise him because he personifies what she considers very dangerous. She agrees that he is not qualified and tells him to get qualified. He could insist on being better prepared. He does not have to make those excuses that he is not educated and can’t write, but at least he is upset about it. He says whoa. She asks if he wants her to give him permission to be a fake. She tells him to stop whining and do something about it. He stands up and opens the door. She says he does not have to do it right now. He says he hated the way she just talked to him, and it wasn’t just because she was right. He closes the door and walks away. She laughs and takes off her stockings and underwear.
Jane is sitting up in bed and talking on the phone that it was not just the speech but this guy. She is beginning to repel people. Aaron in his bed says he must have been good-looking because no one invites a bad-looking idiot to their bedroom. He wants to do himself and says he feels like he is slipping. He asks if the people who are slipping feel that way, or is it the good people who are moving up who feel that way because their standards are so high. She says this conversation is not worthy of him. He wishes that were true. He asks if it would be a good world if insecurity made us more attractive and being needy was a turn-on. She tells him to call if he gets weird, and they say good night. She answers the phone and talks as if it were Aaron, but Tom at a pay phone outside says that he did not explain the reason why he told her all that. He says he was hired by her network for the Washington Bureau; so he will probably be seeing her at work. He says sorry and hangs up.
Aaron is carrying newspapers as he talks to Jane on the way to work. She says they can’t hire people like this for network news.
Tom comes in the building and goes to the Washington newsroom. He listens as in a hallway the older Martin Klein (Robert Katims) asks reporters if they would tell a source that they love him to get information. George Wein (Ed Wheeler), Ernie Merriman (Robert Prosky), Aaron, and Jennifer Mack (Lois Chiles) all admit that they would. Aaron says that Jennifer did not know there was an alternative. They all laugh, and she hits him playfully. Aaron asks if they will accept video of an executive, and they say they would. He jokes about wrestling with a moral dilemma.
In the editing studio Jane tells Bobby (Christian Clemenson) that they are pushing. On the tape a man is saying why he is in Angola. Tom comes in and says she said he could observe. She tells him they are working and to stand aside. She asks Bobby to play it, and Blair Litton (Joan Cusack) comes in and says they need it in 14 minutes. Tom gives Bobby a pen to use. Jane goes out to shoot something, and Blair says there is not enough time. Bobby tells Tom he does not think she will make it, and he laughs. Jane comes back and asks for a two-second dissolve to Rockwell’s homecoming picture.
In another studio Aaron records the audio narration for a moving ceremony of war, the homecoming. Blair says they have only three minutes and asks if she is doing this because she won an award. Blair says she has to tell them they won’t be ready, but Jane says they have 84 seconds. Aaron hands the tape to Bobby who edits it together and hands the tape to Blair. She runs through the office leaping over a child. She runs down a hall and up stairs to the other studio. The tape is put in and is shown on television. Jane and Aaron smile. After the segment the anchor Bill Rorich (Jack Nicholson) says that is the news and signs off. Jennifer likes his smile and says that was good work. Tom tells Jane he is sorry he got in the way and says it was an impressive piece. She says he wasn’t and thanks him. Tom says he can’t believe he is there. He asks her to go to lunch; but she says she and Aaron are going to Central America on Wednesday; so she is cramming. He says she was incredible, and she says everybody was. He knows he has much to learn. He says he would appreciate it a lot, and she makes fun of his wording. He says she makes him nervous. He wishes he could pick her brain; but she says she can’t help him because she is not there to teach remedial reporting. He asks if it has anything to do with his leaving her room instead of staying there. She laughs and says he has to understand that this is not personal. He says okay and goodnight.
Aaron is interviewing a soldier in Spanish, and he tells Jane that he said they are engaging the Sandinistas regularly and that they expect shooting tonight. She smiles. He tells her if something happens to him to tell every women he knew that he was thinking about her at the end so that they will have to re-evaluate him. Jane sees her cameraman Manny telling a soldier to put on his boot, and she runs over and says they do not stage news and that he can do whatever he wants. He looks at her and continues putting on his boot.
Aaron and Jane are walking in the jungle with the soldiers, and shooting starts. They get down, and Aaron speaks to the camera about the battle and refers to the shoes they got today. Jane praises his work. He can’t believe he is risking his life for a network that tests his face with focus groups.
Jane is sitting on a small pier crying.
In the studio Bill is reading the news, and Aaron’s spot is up next. Ernie tells them it is good and notes they got it in early this time. He says Bill liked it. Ernie tells Aaron a guy downstairs has something to say about gays being promoted at State. Tom asks Jane if she will go to dinner with him, and she says she just got back. Blair tells Jane that Bill wants to talk to her during the break. Bill tells her if she gets any better, he is going to bring her to New York. She thanks him and wishes he had kept the first twenty seconds. She wants Aaron to hear it, and Bill says she always wants to give away the credit. She disagrees and says Aaron is there and deserves it. Tom asks Aaron if he can watch him tape the interview downstairs, and Aaron says yes. Aaron whispers to Jane to laugh as if he said something funny and walks away. Jane laughs and says she won’t tell what it was about.
While going down stairs Aaron says he made a stupid remark about Bill’s hairline and says he will never forget it.
At home Tom on the phone gets the address of the State Department and says he is glad to have some work.
At night on the street Tom sees Jane and tells her he has a story. The House Armed Services Committee has a secret report that the expensive Allen fighting vehicle does not work. He says he has it cold and that they already have $5 million in this. She corrects him that it is $5 billion. They said he can have any producer he wants, and he wants her.
Jane and Tom are watching his report, and Aaron asks Jane if she wrote it. She says she writes for him sometimes too. He says not because she has to. He mocks it, and she moves away from him. Blair praises Tom for the way he gave a general a chance to tell his story, but Aaron says sarcastically that they should never forget that the reporters are the real story, not the news. Jane admits she went back and forth on it, but Blair says he was not afraid of being human. Tom thanks Jane. Ernie comes in and tells Tom that his youngest daughter Elli wants to meet him. As Ernie says she loved seeing Tom, she is embarrassed. Aaron asks Elli if she remembers him, but she does not. Ernie reminds her he was on their 14-day rafting trip. Then she remembers him.
Tom on the phone tells his dad that he will send him a tape. He says it was bumpy for a while. He thinks he may be able to do this job. He is glad his father was sure.
Ernie welcomes Jane and Aaron to his home. Inside Blair is telling Paul Moore (Peter Hackes) that they don’t have to be defensive about making money when newspapers do that too and criticize TV news for pandering. Paul agrees and excuses himself. Aaron commends her courage for talking to the president of the news division like that. She says he thinks anyone who is proud of their work is an ass-kisser. He replies with a description of ass-kissing, and she admits that at first she was attracted to him. Blair walks away as he says that changes everything. Jennifer wants to talk with Jane privately and says she sees Tom around her a lot. She would like to see him outside the office and asks if she would mind. Jane says no at first, but then thinks about it and says she does mind. She knows she does not respect him and wonders why she is saying this. Jennifer says they do not have to settle this right now. Jane tells her to wait but does not want to make a scene. She sees Tom eating and taps Aaron on the shoulder. Tom sees Jane across the room and goes to her and taps her on the back. He says she looks clean and pretty. She asks about the clean, and he says at the office she seems to have a film over her. She says she has to find someone; it is important, and she excuses herself and walks away. Jane catches Jennifer as she is walking out the front door and tells her that to forget what she said and do whatever she wants with Tom. Jennifer says she is not going to do anything right now. Jane says it is her day off and that she is entitled. Aaron sees Jennifer walk back in and join a conversation with Tom. Aaron sees Ernie on the phone tell Paul that there may be casualties. Paul says that is it and walks away. Ernie says right away on the phone and hangs up. Aaron calls to Ernie who is calling to Tom. Ernie tells Tom that a Libyan plane just shot up their base on Sicily and that this could be a good time to tap that source of theirs. He might have an angle. Ernie tells Jennifer that they need her. Ernie finds Jane and tells her to produce the special report. He says that since Paul is here, he has made out the assignments—Jennifer at the White House, George at the Pentagon, and Martin at State. They are going to do the report from here with Tom as the anchor. Jane asks if he is not going to use Aaron at all, and Ernie says it is not his choice. Jane asks Paul if she can talk to him outside. They go out, and she closes the door. She says that Tom is not nearly ready for this job. She says Aaron spent six weeks in Tripoli; he has interviewed Khadafi, and he reported the 1981 story. She thinks he is essential for this job, and she believes it is her responsibility to tell him that. Paul says that is her opinion, and he does not agree; but she says it is not opinion. He says she is absolutely right, and he is wrong. He says it must be nice to always believe you know better, that you are the smartest person in the room. She says no; it is awful. He tells her to get going, and he goes back in the house. Jane out front gets in a car that Tom is driving with the others, and Tom says he is excited.
In the office Jane tells Blair to have George and Jennifer cover everything without having Tom ask any questions. She emphasizes that his earpiece must work and have backups because he must be able to hear her every second and clearly. Tom closes his office door and gets a clean shirt out of his desk drawer. Jane sees Tom dressed in a suit and tie and tells him they have twenty minutes and that he can wait in the studio.
At home Aaron makes himself a drink and sings along with a song.
Jane comes into the studio, and Tom sits in the anchor chair. She asks Tom if he can hear her. She gets angry, and he says he can hear her; he was teasing her. The broadcast begins, and Tom reads the breaking news story.
Aaron is reading and singing. He turns off the music and turns on the TV report. After a few seconds he turns it off. Later he has it on again and comments on the alliteration. Aaron calls Jane in the studio and tells her that the pilot who shot down the Libyan plane in 1981 is stationed right there, and maybe they could get him to comment. He says the F-14 is one of the hardest planes to fly, and they are called “Tomcats.” She thanks him and hangs up. She tells Tom the information, and he works it into his questions in the interview.
Aaron sees this and says he says it here, and it comes out there. He calls Jane again and says Khadafi seems controlled like a leader, but he is really crazy. She says they got the pilot on an exclusive and thanks him. He asks her how it feels to be an executive producer, and she says she has to go and hangs up. She tells Tom information, and he works it into his questions. Jane balls out Estelle for using parking as an excuse and tells her to get the job done. Paul tells Ernie that he had no idea that she was this good. Jane tells Tom to fill for the last minute, and he wraps it up by saying at the end that he thinks they are okay. Ernie asks who cares what he thinks. Tom signs off, and Jane thanks everyone. Ernie tells Jane that she was brilliant and hugs her. Paul thanks Jane and Ernie. Paul says this was important for Tom because there is bonding with the public. Tom shakes hands with people, and Paul congratulates him. Tom finds Jane in her office and kneels before her and tells her that she is an amazing woman. He says it was amazing having her inside his head. He says she knew just when to feed him the next line. He says it was like great sex, and she laughs. He says she has to celebrate with him and says they are all going to a bar down the street. She is going to Aaron’s and says she may hook up with him later. She asks how long he will be there, and he sighs and walks away. Two young men sing for Paul and Ernie a musical instrumental they have written for the show. Paul says he got chills and asks Ernie if Tom was great. Ernie says it worked.
Jane is walking on the street at night. She finds Aaron on his steps applauding her, and she says it was good. She says he called in that information and is the classiest guy she knows. He gives her a beer to celebrate. He says it was strange watching him and asks if the next step is lip-synching. She says okay and sits on the steps. He says he figured out why he is so hung up on getting a chance at being the weekend anchor. It is because if he does it well, they will pay him more and treat him better. He says it means he is at their mercy and asks who wants that. He started thinking about the one thing he really likes and that makes immediate sense, and it is her. He says he will stop now; but he would give anything if she were two people so that he could call up his friend and tell her about the one he likes so much. He says he won’t say anymore because he is about to pass out. He offers to walk her to the corner. She tells him to get some sleep. They walk together, and he asks if she has some place to go tonight. He kisses her and says he felt something. She laughs and hugs him before leaving.
In the cab Jane tells the driver how to get to the bar. Jane walks to a corner and meets Tom and Jennifer. He says he did not think she would make it. She thought she would check to see if they were still here. He says they are the last ones and pulls her to the window. She looks in and says she will go in and have a burger. He asks Jennifer if she wants to have another burger. She says yes, but Jane stops them and says she knows how to eat by herself. She feels like a little solitude, and Jennifer says she knows that feeling. Jennifer and Jane compliment each other on their work, and Jennifer says goodnight and walks away. Tom pokes Jane with his finger, turns, and walks across the street with Jennifer. Jane peeks from the corner at them. He tells Jennifer she does not need a taxi. He says she has the greatest car and driver in Washington. Jennifer says he looks confused, but he says he is not. They kiss, and Jane turns away and leaves.
In her bedroom Tom and Jennifer are naked. He is perspiring on the floor, and she is on the bed. He asks where the bathroom is, and she says it is through the closet. He turns on the light, and she explains she converted a bedroom to hold all the clothes she buys. He says it is a great solution, and you can see everything she has. She asks if he does bunny rabbits, and he acts cute and says this is a great date.
At her desk Jane is crying when others start coming in and say good morning.
In Paul’s office he is telling Ernie, Jane, and two other men that they are making him cut $24 million from the budget. This means massive firings, and he is doing what he can. He wants them to be aware of this serious situation. They will also be covering the Alaskan serial killer trial on a continuous basis. They will have to get someone up to Anchorage. He asks Jane if they should send George or Jennifer, and she says Jennifer.
Jane says goodnight to Emily and offers to buy Tom a drink at the thing going on at the Italian Embassy, but he doubts he would be good company tonight. She says she will be the judge of that and goes to get her coat.
At the embassy party Tom and Aaron go outside. Tom asks what you do when your real life exceeds your dreams, and Aaron says keep it to yourself. Tom says he wanted to know his reaction to the Libyan report and was going to ask, but he is a little intimidated by him. Aaron tells him to stop it because it is unseemly to say that when you are on top of the world. Tom says he is not buying into that because he has a load to learn. Aaron says he has the job. Tom says he made a rule when he started because he knew he would take a lot for having been in sports. That rule is to never pretend to know more than he does. Aaron asks if he can name all the members of the cabinet, and Tom says they can drop it. He says he is not going to take a test from him. Maybe he would if it came up in conversation. Aaron does so and asks him to just say if he knows all twelve. Toms says he does, and Aaron says there are only ten. Tom says Aaron is feeling good. Aaron says he is starting too, and they may do state capitals next. Tom says fifty and goes back in.
Tom drives Jane home, and she says she is exhausted and can’t move. She asks if he would like to come up. He suggests they sit in the car and talk a little. He says he is going to have to do a story on his own, and he has an idea. She asks what. He asks if he tells her, will she refrain from criticizing it. He says it is about women who are attacked by someone they know on a date. She says “ugh” and then says she is sorry. He says he will keep it that way. He gets out, picks her up, carries her to her door, and then leaves.
Jane in bed turns on a light and answers the phone. Tom is making tea and asks if she is going to the correspondents dinner. He says if he can get off work, they could go together. She asks if he likes her. He says he likes her as much as he can like anyone who thinks he is an asshole.
Tom is typing and asks Bobby if the last cut was good for him. Bobby thanks him for asking.
In the office they are watching the story about date rape. Aaron comes in and says hi, but others shush him. On TV a girl is saying how she was lonely, and the boy asked if he could come up for one beer. She says it was like a wrestling match; but it got violent, and he forced her to make love. Then he stayed and forced her more times. She apologizes for crying and says he messed her up. Aaron asks if he can turn on the news for a second, and others object. Aaron says he is sorry, and Tom asks what is wrong with it. Aaron says nothing and that he really blew the lid off nooky. Others react. In the report Tom concludes that this is crime without punishment. Jane tells Tom it was nice work and that she has to get a crew on the clock. He goes into an office with her and asks what she thinks. She says it moved her and that she related to it. She says it was unusual for him to cut to himself when he teared up. That might not have been her choice, but she felt it was real. She thinks she is often too conservative about those things. She asks if that is okay, and he says it is. A woman congratulates Tom, and he sees Jennifer on TV reporting from Alaska.
Aaron reports to Ernie who suggests they take a walk. On a park bench Ernie advises Aaron to look for another job. Aaron says they want to fire him. Ernie says they have to fire a lot of people. They are not going by seniority and seem reckless. Aaron asks him to get him one shot at anchoring the weekend news. He says they have never seen him do that, and it could turn it around for him. Ernie says he could do it Saturday because everyone wants to get off for the correspondents dinner. Ernie advises him to prepare carefully because it is a long time since he has read the news. He warns him not to give a superficial performance. Aaron says okay and says he needs to be alone for a while. Ernie goes with him.
Tom coaches Aaron on anchoring. First Tom says his coat jacket is riding up over his shirt, and he advises him to sit on the edge of it. Aaron starts talking, and Tom tells him to look at the monitor. While Aaron is talking Tom gets up and pulls his coat down and makes him sit on it. Aaron tells him not to handle him; but he looks in the monitor and sees how it is better. Tom tells him not to move his eyes back and forth because that makes him look shifty-eyed. He says the right side of his face is better. Aaron continues, and Tom tells him to try to punch one word in each sentence, and one idea in each story. In the hall Tom says he was improving, and Aaron thanks him for the pointers. Tom says he is not just reading the news. He is selling them on the idea that he is credible. When he feels himself reading, he should stop and start selling a little.
Jane is dressed up and answers the door. Aaron says she looks beautiful and asks her to help him pick out which clothes he should wear. She calls Tom and says she will meet him there because she has last minute stuff to do. She asks if he rented or bought the tux. She asks how much and says wow. She says she will see him there and hangs up. Aaron has her pick out a tie for his gray suit and asks how much was the tux. She says it was $1,140. She sprays perfume in the air and then walks into it. She says she read about it in a magazine; it keeps you from putting on too much. He asks her at least to pretend that this is an awkward moment to have him there when she is getting ready for a date. She says it is not a date but co-workers going to a professional conclave.
On the street Jane wishes Aaron good luck and wishes she could be there. He will get the tape and asks her to come to his house after. She says okay. She looks at him, takes the shoulder pads out of her coat and puts them under his coat, pulling it down. She gets in the taxi and tells the driver how to get there. Aaron calls for a taxi.
In the office Aaron is typing. George asks what he is doing there, and he says he is anchoring. A man tells Aaron that it is well written, and Aaron asks if there is water in case he gets cotton mouth. The man says yes; he will do fine.
At the dinner Jane looks around and watches Tom from a floor above. He looks up at her, and they smile at each other. They meet on the escalator. He says it is incredible to be there and that she has an outlaw dress.
Aaron begins reading the news, and he starts perspiring on his face. At the first break a woman comes in and wipes his face and tells him not to worry. A worker says this is more than Nixon ever sweated. Aaron opens his jacket and shows how wet his shirt is and asks how noticeable it is. They bring him another shirt and a towel. During a short break they can only use a hair dryer for a moment. His collar is wet.
Paul shakes hands with Tom and whispers to Jane that he is glad she changed her mind about Tom. Jane sees security checking the contents of women’s purses and tells Tom they have to go.
Outside the Lincoln memorial Tom asks Jane if she is all right. She apologizes for pulling him away from the dinner and says people are trying to make political careers based on how many laughs they can get. He is holding her hand and arm and asks why he can’t let go of her. He kisses her before she can answer. He fondles her breast, and she asks him to kiss her while he is doing that. He says she can’t stop editing him. They kiss passionately. She says she was half-hoping that she would not have a good time tonight and asks if he knows why. He says because she is crazy. He says she is fun to tease. He says that more and more when he sees her in action with her energy he has been wondering what it would like to be inside all that energy. She takes a drink of wine and feels the same. He asks why he said that because he does not remember ever saying anything like that. She has thought of three reasons. If he talks about it, he does not have to do it. He says that is not it. Second, he is trying to make it all about sex and heat and nothing else, or it’s that great feeling that you don’t want to hold anything back, intimacy. She suddenly breaks off and says she forgot about Aaron. She promised to go see how he did. He says he would like to know and will go along. She says no and that she will be back at his place as soon as she can. He calls her back and tells her not to run off as if everything was settled because she has made up her mind. She says Aaron may be weird and can talk more freely if she goes alone. He asks for a minute so that he can catch up. She says she is sorry and hugs him. She tells him not to yell at him like that again; it scared her. She walks away.
Aaron tells Jane to come in and says he was in the shower. She asks how it went, and he says it was good. When she asks specifically what he and others thought, he admits it was not good. She asks what was good about it, and he says he lost six pounds. He says he wrote great copy, sat on his coat, and punched the words; but he had an attack of flop sweat, and they will never let him anchor again. He asks about her date. She says he must be exaggerating about the sweat. He says people phoned in, and she says to stop kidding. She asks why he is so chipper, and he says he does not know. He says it got so bad that it was funny. His central nervous system was telling him something. He says he can read introductions to other people who are covering stories which is what he likes to do anyway. He is chipper because she finally showed up, and he kisses her shoulder and says he will cook eggs for them with tequila. She says she told Tom she would meet him. Aaron tells her to call him up, and he asks if it can wait. She does not know and says she may be in love with him. He says he knew it and tells her to get out of his house now. He gets angry and tells her to get out of there. He tells her to go to hell, and she walks to the door. He tells her to come back and not go. She shouts that this is important to her. He thinks it is too and tells her to sit down. She comes into the living-room and sits on a chest. He asks for one minute and goes outside and comes back in. He will start with the part that does not have to do with him. He will be the trusted friend who gets to say all the awful stuff. He says she can’t end up with Tom because it goes against everything she is about. She agrees she is a basket case. He knows she cares about him. He has never seen her like this about anybody; but he has to tell her that although he is a nice guy, he is the devil. He asks what she thinks the devil is going to look like. He says he is half-serious and says he will be attractive, nice, helpful, and will get a job where he influences a great, God-fearing nation, and will never do an evil thing. Bit by bit he will slowly lower their standards where they are important. He will talk about all of us being salesmen. She walks to the door, and he says he will get all the great women. She calls to Aaron that she thinks he is the devil. He says she knows he is not. She comes back and asks how he knows that. He says because they have the kind of friendship that if he were the devil, she would be the only one he would tell. She says he was quick to run after Tom’s help. He admits it and says that if things had gone well tonight, he probably would not have said any of this. He asks her to admit that he personifies everything she has been fighting against. Aaron says he is in love with her. He asks how she likes it that he buried the lead. He sits down and says he should not say that out loud because it takes too much out of him. She sits on stairs. He says he never fought for anyone before and asks if anyone ever wins one of these things.
Tom is looking out his open window and answers the phone. He asks where she is, and Jane says she is at Aaron’s and can’t get away right now. She says he had a mishap on the news. He laughs and says he knows because he taped it. She asks if it was as bad as he thinks. He says it was like Singing in the Rain which is one of his favorites. He asks if she wants him to talk to him. She tells Aaron that you could hardly notice it, and Aaron asks her to let him talk to him. She hands him the phone. Aaron apologizes for tying up Jane and says he did not realize that they would be going this late. He hands the phone back to her. She says she is sorry. Tom says that sounds more important and suggests they call it a night. She does not know if that is necessary. Tom says his father is coming by tomorrow, and he wants to get some sleep. He says he will see her at the office and says goodnight. He says he is not some chore that she has to finish so that she can stay on schedule. She tells him to take easy shots, says goodnight, and hangs up. She tells Aaron that he cancelled. She says he had a chance to think and cancelled. She says she can’t breathe, over a guy. Aaron thanks her for stopping by. She picks up her purse and coat and says goodnight.
In the studio Jane gives a tape to Bobby. She goes to Tom’s office and says she kept trying to call him, and he never called her. She asks if he was diddling her or what. She is great when she is helping his career; but when she is lonely for a second, she gets fucked around by him. He introduces her to his dad. She says she is pleased to meet him and asks him to forgive what she said. She tells Tom she is sorry, and he says she just lights up a room and then leaves. She smiles and closes the door. Tom’s father asks if he wants his opinion. Tom says he does, and his father says the way she just acted is not the way that an affectionate person acts.
Bill comes into the office with Paul and asks when he will start telling people. Paul says almost immediately. Bill says he wants to take them all out after the show. Paul says this is hard on all of them, and he thanks him for coming down here for this. Bill says they have to be here for one another in the tough times to be a news organization. Blair welcomes Bill back to Washington and shakes his hand. He finds out she is on the list and says this is a brutal layoff and all because they could not program Wednesday nights. Paul says he could make it less brutal by knocking a million or more off his salary. Bill looks at Paul who says that was a bad joke. He explains the sick joke as a defense mechanism and says it does not indicate his real feelings. It shows the stress that represents them all. Tom sees Bill and shakes hands with him.
Jane tells Tom she feels terrible about what happened. She asks what his father said. He says that he said he likes her because she has fire and honesty. She asks if he really did, and he says yes. Blair runs to Jane and tells her that Paul canned her. Bobby tells Tom that Paul wants to see him.
Ernie is in the front yard when his wife comes out and tells him that Paul wants to talk to him.
Tom is waiting, and Paul’s secretary tells him it will be just a minute and that she hates this so much. Martin comes out of Paul’s office and says he is flattered by the term “early retirement.” Paul asks if he can do anything for him, and Martin says he hopes he will die soon. Tom goes in, and Paul tells him that 27 people in this bureau alone are going. They are re-organizing at the same time and are assigning him to London.
In another office Jane tells Ernie that he knew they were going to offer this before she went in there. He says they care too much to be dishonest, and so he will tell her the truth. He is leaving; no matter who replaces him he would be leaving anyway. He does not think she is any better than he is, and she says she is not.
Tom asks where Jane is, and Ernie says she is getting his job. She will be the first woman bureau chief they ever had there. Aaron asks what they are doing with Tom, and he says they kicked him out of Washington. Tom asks what they did to Aaron, and he says they told him they would keep him because he is a cost-efficient reporter. Aaron says he quit.
Blair tells Jane that except for socially she is her role model. They hug. Aaron says he is sorry they are sending Tom down and asks where he is going. Tom says he is going to London, and Aaron says that is a promotion. Tom does not think so, but Aaron says they sent Bill there before they made him anchor. Aaron asks Tom if he had only one camera on the daybreak piece, and he says yes. Tom asks if he is staying for the farewell party. Aaron says no. Aaron says this is one story they will not cover. He thinks if the network is not covering it, it must not be important. Tom tells Aaron that he will miss him because he is a prick in a great way. Aaron says he likes the way it made him sound. Aaron tells him to be good, and they part. Jane says goodbye to the older people who are leaving.
Tom signals to Jane, and they meet in an office. She says it is so awful that it hurts like something is wrong with your bones, like organs are shifting in your body. He says maybe he has not been there long enough, and he congratulates her on her promotion. She asks how he can say that to her. He says he can’t feel bad because he does not feel worse. He says this has happened at every station he has been to. He asks if they owe her any time off, and she says fourteen weeks. He thinks it is crazy for her to come in tomorrow morning and start a new job. He says he has a week before he has to get to his new job. He suggests they get to some island fast and find out how they are together away from this. She says that is an extraordinary proposal, and he asks if that means yes. She says that is more than yes, and he kisses her.
Aaron answers the phone at home, and Jane calls him a quitter. She asks why he did not say anything to her. They arrange to meet each other. At a restaurant Aaron tells Jane that his agent has a hot prospect for him in Portland. He says the general manager wants to be as good as the networks, but he thinks he should aim higher. She asks him to tell her the truth if he is leaving because of her. He says that Ernie says you are lucky if you can get out while you can still cry. He says he should have quit three years ago. She says he is saying great stuff so that she will feel bad that he hung around. He wants to go, but she wants to sit there. She asks why she does not want to move. He says maybe the worst part of her life is over, and she does not want to start the bad part. Now she says he is required to sit there with her. She tells him to be smart for a moment and tell her what he thinks will happen to them. He says in six years he will be back to accept an award for the surge in foreign coverage by local stations. He will be walking along with his wife and two children, and they will bump into her. His youngest son will say something, and he will say that it is not nice to make fun of single fat ladies. She asks if he will be able to stay mad at her. He says he is not really mad. He will miss her, and they will talk. He says they will remain friends and get hot for each other every few years, but they will never act on it. He says he has to go and kisses her on the top of her head and walks out. He stops and tells her to ask herself how Tom had tears in his eyes during that interview when they had only one camera which was on the girl. He feels he was right in telling her this. He walks away. Jane sets up a tape and watches it. At the end Tom asks for another shot of him, and a woman asks for his emotional reaction. He asks for a moment and then cries.
Jane gets out of a cab at the airport and is carrying nothing. Tom sees her and says he has everything. She says she is not going. He asks why, and she says she saw the out-takes and knows that he acted his reaction during the interview. He asks if that is forbidden. He says he almost did it the first time. He says that is not the reason why she is not coming. She insists it is because what he did was terrible. He says they disagree on a lot of things. He suggests she come with him; they can disagree and get a tan too. She says if he is going to be glib, she is going to lose it. He tells her to keep it down. She says she was up all night, and it made her ill. He says that is better. She says he could get fired for things like that, but he says he got promoted for things like that. She says he crossed the line between news and acting, and he says they keep moving the line. She says it proves they have differences. He says this is a one-way argument and that they have six days. If she goes and they fight and hate it, they will come home. If she doesn’t go, it is a much bigger deal. He leaves for London right after that. He says the plane is boarding and that she is good at deadlines. He hands her ticket to her. She says he committed an incredible breach of ethics, and then he acts as if she is giving him a hard time about nothing. He says he is leaving now and tells her the gate number. He walks away. She follows for a few steps and then goes back. He passes through the security check and gets in the tram.
Jane gets in a cab and tells the driver he can go any way he wants, but she says New York Avenue is faster.
Seven years later Tom is giving a speech and says that when they told him that Bill was retiring and that they wanted him to do the evening news, he thought it was a joke like they used to pull at the station like turning a prompter off in the middle of a show. They were surprised at his reaction. He says he would be the anchor; but he did not want to be the managing editor because more qualified people should control the content. If there weren’t, they were all in trouble. He introduces his fiancé Lila.
Later Tom sees Aaron and introduces Lila to him. Tom meets Aaron’s son who says Tom is the “big joke.” Aaron says that Jane is down there, and he is taking his son over to see her. Tom asks if he can come along, and he tells Lila he will meet her back at the place. He kisses her, and she says his speech was magnificent. Aaron says he forgot to say something about the speech, and Tom thanks him.
On a lawn with an umbrella Jane tells the guys to come over here. They get out of the rain, and she gives the boy a present. Tom asks if she is closer to a decision. She tells Aaron that Tom asked her to be managing editor, and she says she is going to take it. Tom is glad and was afraid she would stay in Washington. She says there is a guy, but he told her he will fly up a lot. He invites her to dinner and to meet Lila, but she says she is going back in a few hours. Tom says it was good to see her and kisses her cheek. Tom leaves. Aaron asks Jane about the guy. She tells him about him, and Aaron tells her about his wife’s new job.
This comedy is also a poignant drama about the changes in television news toward entertainment. A skilled reporter does not have the show business qualities needed to be an anchor while the man with the personal appeal is uneducated about the news. The capable producer is able to team up with the new anchor. In the end they find that they can form a professional partnership even though the romance does not work because of their different values.