Taut, exciting, realistic dramedy about the lives of sports journalists. It’s a show about a show about sports, that isn’t about sports at all.
Before there was Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, there was Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night, which followed the trials and tribulations of a smart, energetic television staff as they scrambled to put on a nightly cable sports show, not unlike ESPN’s SportsCenter. Sports Night was every bit as good as its political successor–and in some ways, even better–even though it didn’t have the gravitas of, say, running the country on a daily basis. You don’t need to know anything about sports to appreciate the dynamics of the Sports Night news room (which bears more than a passing similarity to His Girl Friday), and the issues the cast grappled with every week ran from the serious to the frothy, always peppered with snappy Sorkin dialogue. And sadly, as befalls most quality television (TV Guide dubbed it “The Best Show You’re Not Watching”), Sports Night was canceled after two seasons. But the trajectory of 45 episodes on this DVD set allows you to watch one of the best and most groundbreaking half-hour shows ever put on television.
Those familiar with Sorkin’s writing style will revel in the unabashed comedy and interoffice romance on display here, and the way it’s set in motion by a powerhouse cast, including Felicity Huffman’s Dana (sexy, neurotic show producer), Peter Krause’s Casey (goofball anchor guy), Joshua Malina’s know-it-all Jeremy (staff nerd and information repository), Sabrina Lloyd’s efficient Natalie (Dana’s mostly unflappable assistant), and the show’s two secret weapons: Robert Guillaume as executive producer Isaac, who was to Sports Night what Martin Sheen was to The West Wing, and the superb Josh Charles, who as co-anchor Dan, a man as complex as he was funny and heartbreaking, was the heart and soul of Sports Night. Damn, they just don’t make TV this good anymore! –Mark Englehart