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On the tube

by Archives November 1, 2006

It seems that in the age of YouTube and TV series being released on DVD , there are more and more shows being labeled “the best show no one watched.”

Allow me to add another one to the list.

Sports Night, which aired 45 episodes in 1998 and 1999 had a very good cast, great dialogue and great storylines; but it could never find an audience in prime time. The show had the word “sports” in the title – which turned people off . But if they had given the show a chance, they would have realized it was as much about sports as Charlie’s Angels was about law enforcement (that was one of the taglines for the show).

Allow me to explain. All of the major characters work for a late-night sports recap show, the kind you would find on ESPN or TSN. One of the anchors has a very strange relationship with one of the producers ; that some might call courtship, and two of the assistant producers have an on-and-off romantic relationship. And the show was struggling for ratings !

About two minutes of Sports Night is actually about the recap show. It is more focused on the relationships between the characters off the air than on the world of sports.

I watched Sports Night when it was on the air, but never really appreciated how good it was until I received the complete series as a gift from my girlfriend. I have been watching it ever since and am now reviewing the series for the second time.

The very good cast included Desperate Housewives’ Felicity Huffman, who played the show’s producer Dana Whitaker; Robert Guillaume, who played the station’s manager Isaac Jaffee. Peter Krause of Six Feet Under and Josh Charles from Dead Poets Society play anchors Casey McCall and Dan Rydell.

Sports Night was never given a fair shake, and if you lovedramatic-comedies, you owe it to yourself to watch at least one episode. It was a great show, and was recognized by critics. It won three Emmy Awards in two seasons, and won a Critic’s poll for “Outstanding Comedy”. Many believe the show was cancelled due to low ratings, but it was actually put on the shelf because writer Aaron Sorkin wanted to pursue his newest show at the time, The West Wing.

Sports Night was officially dropped by ABC, but had several offers to stay on cable TV. All offers included having Sorkin as a writer, but he was not interested in the job.

Fortunately for Sports Night fans, and for people who are interested in giving it a shot, the show can be relived in all its glory on DVD. Watching it just makes me wish the show was still on air.

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