SPORTS NIGHT: THE COMPLETE SERIES
Reviewed December 16th, 2002 by Dan Jones
It's a good show, Dana. Anybody who can't make money off 'Sports Night' should get out of the money-making business.
Sports night is possibly the greatest “dramedy” ever, moreover possibly one of the greatest television series ever, and one that you probably never saw during its two-season, 45-episode run on ABC. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the man behind “A Few Good Men” and “The American President”, and now “The West Wing,” Sports Night is a show in a show, providing us with a behind the scenes look at those that create the show Sports Night on CSC (the Continental Sports Channel). Sports Night on CSC (the show within the show), is not horribly successful, constantly finishing in third place in ratings behind the giants of ESPN and Fox, yet the crew loves their jobs and loves Sports Night.
I believe what turned a lot of people off to even the idea of Sports Night, is that as it is called Sports Night, it must have to do primarily with sports. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sports Night, ultimately, has nothing to do with sports. Rather, what the show comes down to is the interaction and lives of the key cast of players that go into the show, most notably the two anchors Dan Rydell and Casey McCall, producer Dana Whitaker, senior associate producer Natalie Hurley, associate producer Jeremy Goodwin, and executive producer Isaac Jaffe.
You want to buy this set.
What makes Sports Night one of the best shows ever? The writing and the acting. Never before have I seen such believable, thoroughly thought out characters on screen; the seemingly effortless way these characters become real, real people that you’d like to call up and have a conversation with, people I’d buy digital cable or a satellite dish for just to get CSC and watch Sports Night (if the opportunity existed). You go through the ups and downs with these characters; when Dan Rydell gives his gut-wrenching speech in Episode 2 you can’t help but feel bad for him…until the episodes over and you realize its just a show. The writing is just brilliant and the cast delivers the lines perfectly. On top of all this is the cinematography; yes, the cinematography for a 22 minute show that use to exist on ABC. This becomes quite evident as the episodes go on; long shots without cuts and shots that whip you right through the entire studio, through walls and doors and glass to keep up with the fast pace of the show within the show. It’s no wonder it won the Emmy’s in 1999 and 2000 for Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series. But overall, this is a show that just works perfectly, a show that is so believable and with characters that are so well-rounded and convincing that its hard to put the show down; hard to not watch all 45 episodes in a few days once you get this set. I did, and I restarted yesterday.
You need to buy this set.
Sports Night’s ultimate demise is something that can be attributed to a multitude of things. While the ratings increased in season two, ABC just didn’t have the slightest clue about the show from the get-go. The forced inclusion of a laugh track onto Season 1 just proves how little care ABC has for originality in television; trying to force a show that is definitely not a simple situation comedy into its mesh of crap it had its lineup before and after Sports Night. Sorkin hated this as well, and as season 2 goes along you get the sense that the show in the show starts to reflect the state of the show outside the show. You’ll notice the quote above is very evident of this, a last shot to the kidney written by Sorkin (to ABC one can assume) during the shows ultimate series finale. On top of these reasons, Sorkin had begun work on the monumentally successful West Wing, and was therefore forced to right two shows a week; something one could imagine would be quite stressful. Therefore, even with interest from HBO and Showtime, Sports Night was taken off the airwaves. Later, the 45-episode Sports Night was picked up by Comedy Central and is still playing today in a constant loop.
It’s sad to see Sports Night go. As the likely reason for its demise being mostly ratings based, Sports Night serves as an example how great material can be completely looked over in favor of the same old lowest common denominator of TV viewing; the same old crap we’ve seen for years. I hope this DVD set sells 10 million copies, and I hope ABC cries themselves to sleep.
You must buy this set.
For the DVD release, you can’t get anymore basic, yet it doesn’t really matter ultimately, the content alone makes the set a steal.
All 45 episodes of Sports Night are presented in their original broadcast 4:3 aspect ratio. The transfer here is very good, and is undoubtedly the best the show has ever looked. There are some spotty compression problems noticeable during some of the shows intro (pans over New York City), but besides that there are few flaws in this transfer. Colors are vibrant, flesh tones are accurate and the picture is rather detailed, never appearing overly soft. A nice transfer overall.
On the audio side, Sports Night is presented in Dolby Stereo Surround. The track is basically just dialogue, with little surrounding effects, if any at all. This is to be expected though; this is a dialogue heavy show, with little much else going on in the way of sound. But, the dialogue is crystal clear, never too low. Unfortunately, there is no option to remove the incredibly annoying ABC laugh track... fortunately it’s not on Season 2 and is toned down as the Season 1 goes on.
As for extras, nothing to speak of. No commentaries, no behind the scenes. Still, the content is king here.
Sports Night is one of the best television shows ever and because of which this set is a must buy for anyone who owns a DVD player. It doesn’t matter if you like Sports, all that matters is that you like good television. Sports Night gets our highest recommendation - so go buy it already.
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