Casey McCall and Dan Rydell are sports anchors and best friends. On "Sports Night," their nightly cable program, the two display their unique talent and skills in reporting up-to-the-minute...
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Casey McCall and Dan Rydell are sports anchors and best friends. On "Sports Night," their nightly cable program, the two display their unique talent and skills in reporting up-to-the-minute sports news. When they step off-camera, office romances and sports-related hijinks ensue.
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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