Is Sports Night as good as I think it is?

Sports Night DVD Cover Back in March I wrote about Sports Night, a show on ABC that ran from 1998 to 2000. At the time, the boxed set of the complete series had just been released. Last night I was able to rent it for the first time from That’s Entertainment (our gem of an independent video rental store here in Charlottetown).

And last night, in an irrational display of stayupitude, I watched 9 episodes in a row, starting from the Pilot.

I was as compelled — maybe even more so — by the second viewing as the first. This is truly great television.

Am I deluded? Am I the only one that thinks the Sports Night raised the bar for situation comedies, and that nothing else since has come close?

Today, as Catherine is off in Orwell eating lunch with her weaving and spinning friends, Oliver and I have worked out a strict regimen of “one episode of Caillou, one episode of Sports Night,” interspersed with house cleaning.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on December 6, 2003 - 19:35 Permalink

Nope, you are right on. It was a great show. No laugh track (though I understand that wasn’t the case for the entire run of the show?).

Alan's picture
Alan on December 6, 2003 - 22:28 Permalink

It was smart. Learned a lot from Larry Sandler as perhaps the audience had. I dissuaded the kids from Caillou, however. Became “the bad example kid” for all that whining he does. Now George Shrinks is a show. Music, science and it’s ok to be a weirdo.

Once when sitting around with guys over beers talked turned to good looking TV mom’s and one guy says George Shrink’s mom. We say “it’s a cartoon”. He says “I know…but you gotta admit…”

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 7, 2003 - 06:20 Permalink

Sports Night did, in the end, bear a laugh track. The New Yorker article was partially concerned with the debates between Aaron Sorkin, the creator, who didn’t want a laugh track, and the network, which did. The network won. I’ve now watch 23 episodes in less than 24 hours. It’s still great.

steve's picture
steve on December 7, 2003 - 15:45 Permalink

I think you’re right. I’ve only ever seen one a half episode of the show, but you and CBC Montreal municpial affairs reporter Shawn Apel, who is sort of a genius, both say it’s the best show ever. I’ll look for that DVD.

Matt's picture
Matt on December 7, 2003 - 21:24 Permalink

The show rocked. Now hurry up and get it back to That’s Entertainment so I can rent it.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on December 7, 2003 - 21:26 Permalink

When I first saw you posted about Sports Night, I was hoping you had bought the DVD and that it would somehow end up in my vestibule.

Daniel Burka's picture
Daniel Burka on December 8, 2003 - 00:16 Permalink

As the others suggested, you’re right on Peter. An intelligently written, well-cast television show. It was sad to see it cancelled.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 8, 2003 - 06:25 Permalink

I’m up to 29 episodes now. Catherine is re-hooked. If nothing else, I will come out of this with an intimate understanding of the sitcom form.

Isaac's picture
Isaac on December 8, 2003 - 16:19 Permalink

Count another Sports Night fan here.

I actually think Sorkin won the fight for the second season — and its laugh track free. Since you’re busy watching them, is this right Peter?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 8, 2003 - 20:15 Permalink

I will listen for the laughing on the second season. By the way, Sports Night is one of the rare sitcoms where Season 2 is markedly better than Season 1. Season 1 was great, mind you: it’s just that Season 2 is even greater.

Melda's picture
Melda on December 9, 2003 - 07:23 Permalink

Great show! No question. If it was still on tv I might still watch it (tv that is).

Sadly, I’ve only got a few days at home for Christmas — any way that you (Peter) or Matt could have it back at That’s Entertainment so I could have a boxing-day marathon?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on December 9, 2003 - 18:10 Permalink

I have now completed my viewing of the entire two seasons of Sports Night, the home stretch having been completed between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. this morning (I awoke, with a start, at 6:00 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep, what with all those “beep beep beep” sounds coming from the snow plows).

Turns out the Second Season is spotty: it starts off with a bang, sputters, rebounds, sputters, and ends fairly well. Most of this can be explained, if memory serves, by the fact that the show was under constant threat of cancellation throughout most of its this season. Hard to program when every episode might be your last.

As a result, there were about a dozen plot threads left hanging: does Dan get sane? do Dan and Rebecca get back together? do Jeremy and Natalie get back together? what about William H. Macy (who was brilliant, but flittered in and out of the show way, way too much to have any real development as a character)?

That all said, they have the grace of having left at close to the top of their game, and were saved from fizzling out over 4 or 5 more seasons. The show was mostly always fresh.

If you have 49 times 22 minutes to spend watching TV, I heartily suggest you rent the boxes set.