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The short-lived (45 episodes) "Sports Night" is available in a six-disc
box set. If you're a fan of the show, you know what you're getting.
Otherwise, read on...
The two biggest questions about "Sports Night" have always been "Will non-sports fans like it?" and "Will sports fans like it?" The answer to both questions is a qualified "Yes."
To answer the first query, the comparison I like to make is to "ER". "Sports Night" is about sports (and television) like "ER" is about emergency rooms. You probably liked ER if you appreciated good television drama with interesting characters, whether or not you cared for medical shows at all. Similarly, if you appreciate brilliant television writing and human drama mixed in with witty dialogue, you will enjoy "Sports Night". At least a casual knowledge of sports and/or television will aid the viewing process, but neither is necessary.
As for the latter question, the target audience for "Sports Night" is not congruent to the viewers of, say, ESPN's "Sportscenter". If you watch "Sports Night" for the sports element, you will likely be disappointed. Most of the athletes referenced are fictitious, and celebrity cameos are non-existent. The sports banter is enjoyable for a big sports nut like me, but the average sports fan probably won't care for this show, much like the average doctor or nurse I know doesn't care for "ER".
So why is this show both unique and of high quality? Let me count the ways...
The writing is the core reason for the quality of "Sports Night". Sharp and snappy dialogue largely defines the show, but the fast pace would be worthless without the intelligence of the words. The Aaron Sorkin-led writing team has created a sextet of lead characters, two anchors and four producers of varying responsibility, who are all well-educated and quick-thinking. Their mouths keep pace with their minds, as the dialogue is as fast or faster than real life, and much more intelligent. There are few pregnant pauses for laughter, as a laugh track was used early on but later wisely discarded. The words form a smart, sexy, and funny world, a world that makes one actually long for such a place. Sorkin later gained prominence with "The West Wing", which employed the same verbal style that Sorkin perfected during his time on "Sports Night." If you liked "West Wing" for its writing, you'll eat up this show as well.
Similar to their characters on the show, the actors (at least at the time) were largely unknown by the general public. This enhanced the team atmosphere of both the show itself and the show within the show. Everyone seemed to rely on everyone else in both worlds, and as with many ensemble casts, the anonymity also let the actors become their characters to viewers. Another reason the characters are appealing is that they each have evident flaws and idiosyncrasies. Many of these imperfections are understandable, recognizable, or easy to relate with, further endearing the characters to viewers.
Rarely is the editing of a television show noteworthy, but keeping up with the back-and-forth dialogue of "Sports Night" is quite a chore. The quick cutting meshes well with the writing. Additionally, the reverse camera angles are a breath of fresh air in a world flooded with three-camera sitcoms. Of course, the question arises as to whether this is a sitcom or a drama or a dramedy. But that's for another place and another time.
Unfortunately, outside of the 45 episodes, there is no bonus material on this 6-disc set. The only pleasant touch is the "Play All Episodes" option, which allows you to just that with each disc's shows. Since each program is only 22 minutes, you can enjoy a handful at a time without getting off the couch. This is also a dangerous feature, as the addictive nature of the show combined with the absence of commercials entices you to watch hours at a time.
It is strange watching a television show without commercials, but this program fades in and out of black where each break would be. That gives enough of a pause in the show for the feel of a commercial, and after the first break or two, not having to watch ads is a blessing.
The reason I so highly recommend that you buy the DVD set is that "Sports Night" is not broadcast regularly in syndication. You can find it sporadically on Comedy Central, but not at any sane hour. So get the box set because of the show's rewatchability. It doesn't quite contain the memorability (I'm inventing words everywhere) or pop culture labels of "Seinfeld", but it does have a similar ability to entertain time and time again.
Bottom Line: If you appreciate a truly well-done TV show, particularly in the writing department, get and watch the box set. You won't regret it.
This is another example of how the executives who rule tv are total mindless idiots, and I mean that in the harshest way possible. The networks leave so much garbage on, ABC itself airs Who Wants to Be A Millionaire (a horrible excuse for a show) 800 times a week, they leave crap like Dharma and Greg on, yet they axe Sports Night? Sports Night is by far one of the best shows on tv...ever. Ever! A show with such brilliant writing is rare, but Sports Night had it right on the money. There wasn't one bad thing about this show. It's smart, it's funny, it's dramatic, it's beautifully shot, the casting is perfect..I could go on for days. I never saw the show on ABC, and have just recently discovered it on Comedy Central (shocking, they DO play something besides Saturday Night Live 10 times a day!) I am amazed at the end of every new episode I see. This show is just packaged so nicely, and I must add, the chemistry between the cast members on the show is unbelievable...this show is in my top 3 of best shows on television, and it only goes to further my disgust with the network tv powers that be...shame on you for running garbage season after season after season, and tossing aside a jewel like this. The head of NBC tv programming was named one of the biggest losers of 2000 by TV Guide for cutting Freaks and Geeks (another brilliant show)..I definitely think the head of ABC programming for 2000 should be added to the list as well. Sports Night- a definite 10 out of 10.
I have seen a lot of sitcoms, and this is one of the best.
Offering a level of realism and intelligence rarely seen in a sitcom, Sports Night should have been destined for greatness. Alas, it wasn't. ABC pulled the plug on this amazing piece of work much to early. (ABC, by the way, should be flushed down a toilet after THAT blunder.) Rarely does any show on television, dramas included, engage the viewer in such a way as this one did.
The show is filled with great characters, dialogue, and plots. Further more, much like the Simpsons and Seinfeld, you really get to know and like just about every character on the show, rather than merely the main characters. The people whose names you may be hard pressed to remember offer up as many enjoyable moments as the 'stars' of the show.
I would wish that this show would be picked up again by some other network looking to continue this amazing show, but that is something out of fantasy. In the real world, it just can't happen like that. Which is a real shame.
For all of you who missed it's original airing on ABC (who could've done a MUCH better job promoting this show), I advise you to catch it in reruns on Comedy Central. You'll be glad you did.
I never caught this on TV, but I bought the DVDs, and am very happy I did!
What a great show. In turns funny, touching, intelligent, entertaining...
this show covered all the bases.
The chemistry between the characters is just phenomenal, one or two episodes in, things really start warming up and you find yourself completely hooked.
Great writing on TV doesn't come along that often, but Sports Night (except for the occasional smart-ass moment) proves to be as well-written as anything I've ever seen... it's amazing what they managed to squeeze in in these 20 minute episodes.
And don't worry if you're not a sports fan - you don't have to be to enjoy this show.
The DVD box set is unbelievably plain - 42 episodes and that's it - no booklet, no supplements, no commentary. But fortunately, the material itself is so good, I can forgive Buena Vista for this. Also, the laugh track is a little infuriating to begin with, but it gets toned down in later Season 1 episodes, and removed altogether later in Season 2.
If you love the snappy fast paced dialogue of The West Wing then
Sorkin got his feet wet with this light hearted comedy about an all sports
station competing with ESPN and FOX Sports.
I for one found this show in mid flight when ABC had it and was sorry to see it canceled. I was also gratified many tv critics complained that intelligent and fast paced humor could not survive the rating wars. It was just recently on Comedy Central and I would set my VCR to record it at 3:30 am each night (morning). I looked forward to the twenty plus minutes a day to watch it (I skipped commercials!). I found the show went by far quicker than the regular sit-coms on tv now and that told me one thing...this was a well done show with good performances from some really excellent actors. For those that did not like the show...have you really taken stock of the pool of talent this show had?
Peter Krause is now a bedrock performer on HBO's Six Feet Under. Robert Guillaume, whom we all got to love as Benson from the original "take it to edge" comedy SOAP and then the Benson spin off is terrific. Integrating his real life stroke into the fabric of a show's Managing Director's stroke was brilliant. Josh Charles did a good job, Sabrina Lloyd will be heard from, and we discovered a fine young actor in Joshua Molina who has gone on to play good roles in The American President and has now emerged as a character that will endure in The West Wing. Felicity Huffman also does an outstanding job as Dana, the show's producer.
For you naysayers take a look at the guests on this show. Can one quibble with William H. Macy, Ted McGinley, Terri Polo, and Lisa Edelstein? This show had sass, verve, energy, and dealt with some very real subjects such as the one where Natalie (Lloyd) is accosted in the locker room of a pro football team by one of it's star players. Does the name Lisa Olson ring a bell? Or how about the one where the star running back (African-American) at a Tenn. college refuses to play so long as the school flies the Confederate flag. Was this not a current and highly charged issue?
I cannot tell people that were not fans of the show what to like. What I can say is if you like very fast wit, quick "you gotta be on your toes or you might miss the next sarcastic or sardonic line" dialogue, or if you just want to see 1/2 hour go by in a flash then see this show when (if) it comes back on. My advice is tape it if it shows again at the 3ish in the morning time slot OR it is now on DVD (the entire two seasons.
TV Guide voted it 'The Best Show You're Not Watching' ('If they're not
watching it, how do they know?' demanded Peter Krause, accepting the
Sports Night was West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin's first venture into television. Its focus was a fictitious sports show, the struggling 'Sports Night' on cable channel CFC ('A third-rate show on a fourth-rate network'), and the dramas lived out behind the scenes by the characters: Dan Rydell (Josh Charles, in one of the most marvelously complex and multi-faceted performances ever to grace the small screen) and Casey McCall (Peter Krause, now better known as Nate in Six Feet Under), the two handsome, charming, talented and hopelessly neurotic anchors; the producer, Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman), confident in her professional abilities but insecure in her personal life; associate producers Jeremy Goodwin (Joshua Malina, now to be seen in Sorkin's other show), geek extraordinary, and his girlfriend, the forceful, opinionated Natalie Hurley (Sabrina Lloyd); and, overseeing it all with quiet dignity, veteran journalist, now managing editor, Isaac Jaffee (Robert Guillaume, known to a generation of viewers as 'Benson', whose dry delivery makes his every utterance a joy, and whose mere presence lends the show gravitas). A critical success but a ratings failure, it lasted for a scant two seasons comprising 45 half-hour episodes (less commercials and credits, more like 22 minutes apiece). That was enough to gain it a small but dedicated audience, and a fanbase whose numbers are still growing. The release of this DVD boxed set has helped to bring Sports Night, never to date aired on UK TV, to a new and appreciative audience.
Some aspects of the show, which ran from September 1998 to May 2000, haven't aged well the frequent establishing shots of the New York skyline dominated by the twin towers of the World Trade Centre send a jolt through the system every time, whilst a passing reference to the Spice Girls seems laughably dated. But the dialogue (much of which Sorkin recycled for use in The West Wing) is as fresh and vibrant as the day it was penned, the story lines as compelling, the characters as real, human, endearing and, frequently, maddening, as ever seen on TV and a great deal more so than most. The performances throughout are assured and compelling, the timing split-second, the direction flawless; and Sorkin's trademark walk-and-talk dialogue and long tracking shots through a standing set will be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with his work.
Two criticisms: season one is plagued by a laugh track, superimposed (presumably in a fit of madness) by the US network; and there are no DVD extras, only the 45 episodes. But, really, that should be enough. Wanting more is simply greedy. But, of course, I do want more. And so does everyone else who loved this show.
I never missed an episode of this show during it's original run and even recorded all but a few. I was thrilled to see this was released on DVD. I've turned a few people on to this show via my video tapes and we all love it. The reason to watch this show isn't the guffaws. You smile and snicker more then laugh out loud. But for shear entertainment you just can't beat it. The characters are real and you can relate to all of them and more importantly you care for all of them. The real genius of this show is not just the story and characters, but the dialogue. The way the actors deliver the lines, and the lines themselves are a joy to listen to and what makes this show watchable again and again. You will never get tired of listening to the verbal volleys between the actors. I can't say enough about the writing and acting of this show. Borrow it, rent it, buy it, whatever you have to to see it. Give it just a few episodes (ignore the lame laugh track on the first episode or 2) and I guarantee you'll be happily addicted to possibly the most well written (and acted) television show ever.
If you can only spend a half hour a week in front of the tube, spend 9:30 -
10:00 (eastern, 8:30 central) watching "Sports Night", the best written show
on television. If you have unlimited time to watch any and every show on,
start here and begin weeding out the rest.
Aaron Sorkin is the David Mammet, Billy Wilder or Cameron Crowe of the small screen. (And let's not forget his big screen credits, including the screenplays for "The American President" and "A Few Good Men".) His scripts are crisp, clever and funny as can be.
Add the fantastic pacing of a group of talented directors, and you have the one show on TV that compels you to tune everything else out so that you can savor every second of wondrous activity.
To that we can add a great cast. Josh Charles becomes your best friend. Peter Krause and Felicity Huffman create the greatest romantic tension you will find. Joshua Molina is brilliant. Sabrina Lloyd chews scenery with pure joy and a wink. And Robert Guillaume gives consistently spectacular performances, both before and since his stroke.
Don't miss this show! If you do, you'll never get your wasted 30 minutes back.
Too bad we can't rate TV shows on IMDB, eh? I wonder what this one would
get; I'm sure it would be very high.
Like practically everyone else, it seems, I ran across SN after it had been canceled and was in reruns on cable. It took about 15 seconds to fascinate me, because it was obviously a show about a sports show that somehow wasn't about sports (which naturally made me wonder what it _was_ about), and because the writing was so excellent. Oh, and the acting was good too ;-).
Given all the comments already posted, there seems to be nothing left to say about this program so I'll close by ranking it alongside Babylon 5 and Northern Exposure as one of my all-time favorite shows ever aired on television (the similarities to NE are possibly worth exploring). Really enjoyable stuff; terrible that it only lasted such a short time.
I'm glad I didn't watch this series until first catching "Studio 60 On
the Sunset Strip", which is basically just a re-tread and re-imagining
of "SN". The comparisons don't end with script structure and "witty"
dialogue - they both have similar actors, characters, and well...
everything. Since "SN" was canceled, I suppose "Studio 60" is now as
close as you can get. For some, that's a good thing. Not for me.
It is undeniable that this is an entertaining series. The characters are all fun (if way too nice to be believed), each beautifully performed by a very talented cast. The stories are engagingly manipulative. And it's just a cool idea - a series about a Sports show that isn't about Sports.
Unfortunately, Sorkin is absolutely enamored with his own voice, and as such all of his characters adopt this voice. It is not them. It is not what Danny or Dana or Casey would do or say - it's what Sorkin would say if he *were* any of these characters, complete with very self-conscious, clipped, repetitious quips. He writes like a playwright writing as a playwright is supposed to write. Not only does his style not work, it's grating, obnoxious, fairly unoriginal, and - worst of all - totally takes us out of the moments he struggles so hard to create.
Would that were my only complaint.
In addition to some seriously poor production values and editing (probably the result of being forced in front of a studio audience - not Sorkin's choice), not to mention a dopey theme song that continues to rear it's ugly notes, this series (and "Studio 60" to an even greater degree) suffers further from being produced by someone way too close to the subject material. Both shows practically scream "I'm a TV producer! I should make a TV show about making a TV show! That way I can show off all my knowledge of the subject, as well as inject the show with as much obscure information as possible to make me seem even smarter than I already am! Did I mention I'm a hard-working TV writer who won a Writer's Guild award? I'll have my main character be a hard-working TV writer who won a Writer's Guild award! Did I mention that my favorite writers are Paddy Chayefsky and Gilbert & Sullivan? I'll have my Pilot teaser be a rip-off of "Network", and then have my characters espouse their love for Paddy Chayefsky and do a send-up of "Pirates of Penzance"! Did I mention that I have a coke problem? I'll have my main character..." and on and on.
The show's plots also leave a lot to be desired. They are rife with obvious set-ups for lame jokes, and practically shameless "After School Special" or "Christmas at Sports Night" moralizing (the "This is sexual harassment, and I don't have to take it!" episode really stands out, particularly since Natalie is a cloyingly quirky character that no real person would stand working with). While entertaining and inherently watchable, the stories are neither quite as smart as Mr. Sorkin believes they are, nor as intelligent as he himself is. He should - nay, does - know better.
It amazes me how much Sorkin has in common with M. Night Shyamalan - they both have enviable raw talent, are in love with their own works, and yet try so hard you just know that they're incredibly insecure about their own abilities. If they would stop with such egotistical nonsense as forcing their own personal stamp on their projects, and instead just worked to make a great movie or TV show, the entertainment world would be a much better place.
It's true, "SN" is weak. But I suppose bland coffee is better than none at all.
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