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Sports Night - The Complete Series Boxed Set
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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
- Complete Series: 45 episodes on 6 discs
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Top Customer Reviews
"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.
The show follows a team of newscasters, producers, and writers who work on a late night sports news show called "Sports Night", a mock up of ESPN's SportsCenter. The interpersonal relationships this small group of people have are always fascinating and fun to watch, and one of the best things about this show is that even if you have no real knowledge about sports, you can *still* watch this show and not get lost at all! As a woman with very little knowledge of most sports, I *still* fell in love with this show, and I imagine it's even more awesome for a man who actually *knows* what they're talking about when it comes to all the sports lingo and statistics they ocassionally throw out there.
This show even has a little star power, and some very recognizable faces among the cast. The most obvious of which is Felicity Huffman, who is now starring on the hit show "Desperate Housewives" as the strong-willed soccer mom, Lynette Scavo. Felicity's husband, William H. Macy, also guest stars in a few episodes of "Sports Night".
This half-hour dramedy only lasted 2 seasons before it's cancellation (which was a very sad day in television), but it lives on through this incredible DVD box set. Since each episode is actually a little less than a half-hour (since there are obviously no commercials on dvd), it's really easy to start watching them and get so drawn in that you don't realize you've gone through half a season in no time at all!
Bottom line, I highly recommend this show, and I still cling to the tiny hope that network execs might someday realize their mistake in cancelling it, and bring it back on the air....but alas, that will probably never happen.
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.