on June 19, 2004
Writer/creator Aaron Sorkin and director Thomas Schlamme went on to develop NBC's "The West Wing" during the second season of this wonderful series.
From the beginning, ABC had no clue of how to handle this show. First, they insisted that the producers ad a laugh track, because you don't know when to laugh. Then, they started to promote it like a soap opera, because it had serious issues to deal with at times.
Ultimately, the quality of the show came through. A fabulous cast provided excellent performances. Josh Charles ("A Few Good Men") and Sabrina Lloyd ("Sliders") are the MVPs here, consistently giving the show it's heart. Peter Krause ("Six Feet Under"), initially stiff in his "on air" role as Casey McCall, settled in well mid-first season.
The real gem here is Robert Guilamme ("Benson"), his Issac Jaffe is an excellent character brought to life with his gentle touch. Guilamme's real-life stroke was written into the series, and when he returned in the second season made for some wonderful moments and sly dialogue delivered by the veteran actor.
If you've not yet experienced this series, you may want to catch a rerun on late night Comedy Central. But, I whole-heartedly endorse adding this DVD set to your personal collection.
on June 15, 2004
One of the best shows you never watched. Unfortunately, Aaron Sorkin's mix of witty dialogue and endearing characters did not catch on with the viewing public. Maybe it was because it wasn't placed in a consistent time slot, maybe the viewing public isn't that savvy and sophisticated. Anyway, this show was as funny, touching, and poignant as MASH. Give it a chance, get to know the characters, Dan and Casey, the on-air talent, Jeremy, the stats guy, Dana, the savvy producer, Natalie, her competent assistant (my crush), and Issac, the seasoned executive producer. The episodes guest staring William H. Macy, the ratings consultant, have some of the best scenes in television history. The genius of Sorkin's dialogue is communicating what is not said.
The only warning that I have for those of you who haven't experienced Sports Night...is be prepared to be disappointed in the final episode because that is when the show was just getting its legs. It's a shame that this show got cut down in the prime of its life.
on May 9, 2004
If you enjoy The West Wing, sports, or just good writing, Sports Night is the show for you. I never once watched the show when it was on network TV, in fact i didn't know it existed. I was up late one night and caught an episode and was instantly grabbed by its unique style and keen intellect. I purchased the set from Amazon.com after watching The West Wing Season 1 on DVD and instantly fell in love with Aaron Sorkin's writing. It will truly grip you. You will become attached to the characters as you watch them work and deal with a number of complex social and personal problems. You will honestly laugh and cry in the same episode. Perhaps the best part of the show is the way it constantly surprises you, not with cheap storylines which are cliched, but with the plot turns these characters face not only in each episode, but more so over the course of the whole set. The only regret I have is that there are only 2 seasons. This show really is a masterpiece, and I'm not one easily won over. Take a chance if you're interested in trying the show out, it will be worth it.
on May 2, 2004
[I rate it 4.5 stars.]
"Sports Night" is about an eponymous fictitious hour sports news show on the fictitious Continental Sports Channel. It's a sit-com targeted at an audience who knows what "eponymous" means without consulting a dictionary. But this comedy isn't really about sports at all. It's about intelligent, articulate people who use humor to relieve the pressures that their demanding jobs entail.
Aaron Sorkin is the creator of "Sports Night". He also created "The West Wing" a year later, and when he realized that it was a lot easier selling viewers a fictitious White House administration than a fictitious sports news crew, he dropped "Sports Night" like a hot potato. Most everyone knows that "The West Wing" isn't really about Washington politics; instead it's about intelligent, articulate people who use humor to relieve the pressures that their demanding jobs entail. But few people have even heard of "Sports Night". It's a shame, though, because "Sports Night" may be the funniest show you never watched.
There are plenty of valid criticisms of "Sports Night". For supposedly intelligent people the characters adopt a large number of unreasonable prejudices. These are all politically correct prejudices, of course. In the world of "Sports Night" when a homeless man flicks open a switchblade he's only cutting a sandwich to share. Aaron Sorkin certainly has trouble writing multiple character voices. Without seeing which characters recite which lines you'd be hard pressed to match characters with dialog from a script; the phrasing and delivery are largely interchangeable. And fully half of the humor of "Sports Night" comes from a predictable formula of repetition. Here's my pastiche of a "Sports Night" dialog:
A: "We need to talk."
B: "Is it about X? Because I'm tired of talking about X. We can talk about anything you want, as long as it's not about X."
A: "OK, then."
B: "It's not about X?"
A: "It's not about X."
B: "OK, then."
A: "It's about X."
B: "I've got to tell you, if I could make your head explode using only the power of my mind, they'd never get the stain out of the carpet."
"Sports Night" in its 2-year run won quite a lot of awards, but none of them were from the writing. It's good that there's still a lot of comic meat left after you strip away the repetition schtick, and much of that comes from the talented cast: Josh Charles (who got his start in John Waters's "Hairspray), Peter Krause (now in "Six Feet Under"), Felicity Huffman ("Out of Order"), Joshua Malina (who followed Sorkin to "The West Wing"), Sabrina Lloyd ("Sliders"), and Robert Guillaume ("Benson"). But the most significant people on "Sports Night" weren't the writers or actors, but rather the impressive crew behind the cameras. Here are just the award "Sports Night" won (skipping the 22 other nominations):
1999 DGA Award, Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series: Thomas Schlamme
1999 Emmy Award, Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Series: Janet Ashikaga
1999 Emmy Award, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series: Thomas Schlamme
1999 Humanitas Prize, 30 Minute Category
1999 Television Critics Association Awards, Outstanding Achievement in Comedy
2000 DGA Award, Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series: Thomas Schlamme
2000 Emmy Award, Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series: Peter Smokler
2000 Genesis Award, Television - New Series
2000 PGA Golden Laurel Nova Award, Most Promising Producer in Television: Aaron Sorkin
2000 TV Guide Award, Best Show You're Not Watching
Do you remember the first episode of "ER"? This was ground-breaking television; it pulled you into the story by its technique of using moving cameras to record an action-packed scene in a single continuous piece rather than assemble lots of short cuts together. It's not surprising that Thomas Schlamme directed several episodes of "ER" before bringing this technique to "Sports Night". Continuous action is very expensive to shoot as it requires the sets to be contiguous, the lighting to be in place for all the places the camera will move to, and most importantly all the actors and camera and sound people have to avoid mistakes for the duration of the scene. But the payoff is a superior viewing experience. This show really delivered.
I could go on about the great recurring guest cast, with people like Teri Polo, Brenda Strong, William H. Macy, and Jayne Brook. Or the great music that ends most every episode. I could tell you that you'll be disappointed by the extras on the DVD collection (none at all). Or that Sorkin bowed to network pressure and added a laugh track for about half the first season before it became clear that the viewers were people who didn't need a laugh track to get the jokes. But the most important thing I can tell you is that you really should check out "Sports Night". Despite its several flaws it got many things right. "Sports Night" is good entertainment.
on March 15, 2004
They say you should never talk about politics and religion at the office. The characters of SPORTS NIGHT tackle religion, politics and much, much more on this great and eternally underrated TV show (marketed as a standard comedy sitcom but is much more complex, probably had the wrong original audience).
With a mix of characters ranging from the elderly and very (albeit grudgingly) fatherly managing editor played by Robert Guillume, to the neurotic executive producer played by Felicity Huffman, the shy and tightly wound pair of associate producers (Josh Molina and Sabrina Lloyd) to the two byumbling but not superficial anchors of Peter Krause and Josh Charles. You can't get a better conglamoration of characters or better actors to play them with the right amount of comedy and splendor this side of "The West Wing".
From a slow news day to personal feelings about ethics in sports as well as the role sports play in society this show covers them all in conjunction with the everyday office gossip, problems with management and interpersonal relationships. That this show is still funny and smart at the same time is a true testament to the writing skills of Aaron Sorkin.
Notable guest appearences include Peter Reigert, John de Lancie (for all you Star Trek fans) and William H. Macy (who is married in real life to Felicity Huffman).
Don't bother yourself getting up early on Saturday mornings to catch the re-runs on Comedy Central, get the series and watch them all as often as you like and basque in appreciation of what real television should be!
on February 8, 2004
First, a disclaimer. I happen to work in the television industry,
so I probably see more in this show than the average viewer.
That having been said, I would recommend this box set to anyone who wanted to see truly incredible comedy, witty dialog, characters you WILL care about, and writing that should have its own category in the Emmy Awards. From the rapid-fire joke delivery, to the character development that begins in the pilot and never stops, to the drama intertwined with all, this has to be one of the best shows ever to grace ABC's lineup. (It is truly unfortunate that ABC chose to move it around; that this show was killed by such treatment should be ample evidence to ABC that such show-shuffling is A Bad Idea If You Want To Build Audience Loyalty.)
An aside to one of the other reviewers who wanted the cast members to come back to do a proper ending to the series; I have to say that, having lived through a situation very similar to the anguish that was central to the last two episodes, I can think of no better ending. The last five minutes of Episode 45 brought tears of joy to my eyes, just to know that their pain ended on such a happy note. It should stand as it is.
We've seen some of the other actors in other roles recently (notably Sabrina Lloyd, Joshua Malina, Peter Krause, and Felicity Huffman), and have heard Robert Guillaume (for whom I have nothing but admiration) as voice talent in the new Lion King movie, but I will always treasure sharing Continental Sports Channel and "Sports Night" with them. Thanks for the ride, guys!
on January 27, 2004
Aaron Sorkin started this show a year before his crowning achievement on The West Wing, and it was a pity that it wasn't picked up on when it came out. I must admit, I didn't see the show until years after its run on TV was over, and I was very impressed at the time. This is a show that runs on Sorkin's strengths: to go behind the scenes and provide a glimpse of something that most people wouldn't know about (namely, what goes into producing a television show), to write great dialogue and have terriffic actors deliver it, and above all, to create his unique synthesis of comedy and drama that has the effect of being absolutely riveting. Sorkin can bring viewers to laughter one moment and tears the next, his juxtaposition of humor and gravity is stunning, it doesn't feel the least but unnatural or staged.
The show is a behind the scenes look at producing a nightly sports highlights show. Like other Sorkin progeny, most of the material of the show is derived from the interplay of the personalities on the show: Dana Whittaker (Felicity Huffman), the show's producer; Casey McCall (Peter Krause), the divorced show anchor and his hapless co-anchor, the excellent Josh Charles as Dan Rydell; Joshua Malina steals a number of scenes as resident geek Jeremy Goodwin; Sabrina Lloyd is likeably quirky as Natalie Hurley, but perhaps the most affecting character is executive producer Isaac Jaffe (Robert Guilliame), a strict father-like benevolent overseer. The ensemble is always excellent, whether debating the athlete of the century or delving into each other's personal lives, they always come off as real people rather than comedians or performers. This show has a lot of heart, and some of the poignant speeches here can truly leave one's eyes teared up.
Many times, this show feels like The West Wing on speed. The drama and humor fly by so quickly that it feels like a high-speed chase on the freeway. This might have been a prototypical high-concept sitcom that was just too risky for the general public, but it is one of the finest shows of the 1990s and is certainly worth your time if you liked Sorkin's other work.
on January 4, 2004
For those that might see this title come up while searching for the West Wing DVD, I fully recommend this amazing box set. The characters, plotlines and dialog are brought to life with such a glow, a special X factor, that you can't help but be engrossed. I have to say that if this show had been given the chance that Cheers had received when it was tanking in its' first few seasons, I know that this would be one of the most watched TV shows on ABC.
There are few shows that give the viewer a real palpable sense of satisfaction simply by watching them. Something beyond a woman picking a husband on TV, or cops solving a mystery. Sports Night is TV at its finest. The characters are intelligent, and they exude a vulnerability that allows the viewer to be saddened by their struggles as well as revel in their triumphs.
This show has an exuberance and zest for itself that makes you care about it. A wit and style that make you see the characters as multi-dimentional, not just cardboard, static stereotypes. Aaron Sorkin took Sports Center and gave it a soul. Gave it something special that the viewers never see. Then he brought it to everyone. You do NOT have to like sports at all to enjoy this show. Just don't be surprised when you find yourself caring about men climbing a mountain or a pitcher throwing a no hitter, because it's all seen through the wonderfully human eyes of the characters.
In short, this show is at the top of it's game when it's funny, as well as dramatic. It's just a shame that ABC didn't know how to market that.
on December 29, 2003
How many sit-coms have the following?
- Witty, fast-paced dialogue
- Characters who actually care about being moral (!)
- Interesting and surprising plot lines
- Good acting by everyone in the cast
- Stories that inspire you at times and make you tear up at others
I agree with the other reviewer who said the ABC exec who cancelled this show should be shot. If the networks realized that *long-term* financial gain is actually a good thing, and often can only come via word of mouth promotion, they might actually give a show like this a chance.
The reason I never watched it myself when it was on the air, was that I thought it was "a show about sports". (I'm a sports fan, by the way, just not a fan of dopey sit-coms.) I clearly remember some ads in the NYC subway which conveyed to me: "Another stupid TV comedy, but this one's about sports." I put a lot of blame on ABC's marketing department for the show's cancellation.
Reminds me of the movie "The Shawshank Redemption". It was hurried off the screens, then the following year became the most rented video of the year. I'm 100% capitalist, but businessmen sure seem to know how to mess up a good movie or TV show.
on December 16, 2003
Wow. I read the reviews and decided to buy this dvd set. This is why dvds were invented! To preserve wonderful tv shows and expose them to a whole new audience. I rember hearing about this show years back and shrugged it off, mainly because of the title. (I am not a huge sports fan). This show is incredible and is a must for people who love great television. What I love about this show is the continuity from one episode to the next, which is something most 1/2 hour shows lack - they restart every week as if the last week never happened. This show allows you to follow these characters and you actually care about them. Watching these dvds is like reading a book you can't put down. I finished the entire set within a few days and found myself quite saddened when I reached the last disc and knew there would be no more after this. The last line of the series said it best, something along the lines of "Sports Night is a great show. If you can't make money out of it, you shouldn't be in the money-making business". Pure genius. You suck ABC. This show would have totally kicked ass on HBO.