Michelle’s Top 5 TV Shows: #3 – SPORTS NIGHT

Sports Night
The shows I’ve chosen for my top five are the ones my hand most often reaches for on my DVD shelf, and my fingers often pause on the funniest show almost no one watched, SPORTS NIGHT.

What the show is about:

Sports Night followed a tightly-knit team who tried to produce a quality nightly sports news show under constant pressure to improve ratings. It was Aaron Sorkin’s first series, almost a test run for The West Wing, but much funnier. Uptight Casey McCall (Peter Krause) and charismatic but insecure Dan Rydell (Josh Charles) are the anchors, super-competent and Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman) is the producer while spitfire Natalie Hurley (Sabrina Lloyd) is her right-hand woman and nerdy (in the best way) Jeremy Goodwin (Joshua Malina) is the new guy. Isaac Jaffey (Robert Guillaume) is the boss and the buffer between the show and the network.

Why I love it:

It’s the characters, and the actors playing them, that first latched on to me. The bonds between these smart, talented, often deeply and hilariously neurotic people are strong and tested often. They worked, played, and fought together. At the center are Dan and Casey, who have one of the most complex partnership/friendships seen on television. Natalie and Jeremy have a sweet romance, while Casey and Dana take a longer and harder road. Isaac suffers a stroke (Robert Guillaume’s real-life stroke was written into the show) and we watch his slow, painful, and triumphant recovery process.

The writing and acting is top notch. If you watched The West Wing, you already know about the walk and talks, the insanely eloquent monologues, the witty banter, and the heartfelt sentiment. Sports Night has the added bonus of hilarity, from a defrosting turkey falling onto the set or Dan desperately trying to convince a woman (Lisa Edelstein) he didn’t sleep with her in Spain to Casey and Dan facing off in a web poll or eggnog gushing out of Jeremy’s mouth.

Why people should watch it:

While the jokes came fast and furious, emotional moments also came often and generally without warning. The show was constantly evolving, as it grew from a workplace comedy to a more thorough character study of this group of characters that had the best chemistry ever, throwing in some biting satire of the sports and entertainment business for good measure. Sports Night did the juxtaposition of work and personal life incredibly well, so that we got to know both the characters and the inner workings of the show within a show and found that both were equally funny. If you love sports, that’s an added element for you to enjoy, but non-sports fans shouldn’t be scared away because Sports Night is about so much more than sports.

Watching Sports Night, you’ll care about what happens to Casey and Dana, root for Natalie and Jeremy to make it work, applaud Dan for trying to figure out his problems, and cheer every time Isaac reaches a new milestone in his recovery. You’ll think about issues raised, take sides in the occasionally vicious arguments, wonder why an episode ended so quickly, and through it all laugh at the zany antics and witty dialogue.

Top 5 Episodes

5. “Napoleon’s Battle Plan” (Season 1)-Gordon proposed to Dana and Casey’s plan is to show up and see what happens.
4. “Dear Louise” (Season 1)-Jeremy tries to write a letter to his sister about his new life working on Sports Night.
3. “And the Cut Man Cometh” (Season 2)-Anything that can go wrong during the broadcast of a championship boxing match does.
2. “Quo Vadimus” (Season 2)-The series finale where the show within a show hung in the balance and Dana meets a mysterious stranger who gives her some great advice.
1. “Eli’s Coming” (Season 1)-Dan senses doom in a day that features his girlfriend’s husband hanging out in her office, his guest co-host trying to make him admit he slept with her, and a missing Isaac.