In an effort to begin what will be a theme of Television posts and reviews, I’ve just finished watching Sports Night and want to tell you about it.
Sports Night was an Aaron Sorkin show from 1998 to 2000, and if you don’t know yet you’ll soon learn that I sort of have a thing for Aaron Sorkin’s television. A thing that was nearly broken with Sports Night, but seems to be back on given how calm I was when it ended. Anyway, Sports Night is a show about a show. The show within the show is also called Sports Night. It’s a lot less confusing than it sounds. The show revolves around the producers and host of a late night sports news show called — wait for it — Sports Night.
Casey McCall and Dan Rydell are the on-camera talent who work with producers Dana Witacher, Natalie Hurley, and Jeremy Goodwin, as well as their fearless leader Issac Jaffe. They get together and don’t get together and sometimes they make some television in there somewhere too.
And now I’m going to dive into spoilers, so if you want to watch the show and are bothered by them, stop here.
When I first started this show I was enthralled. It was a quick, clean cut, walk-and-talk, office dramady that needed to not have a laugh track, but I forgave that flaw. Season 1 (there are only two) is fantastic. Air horns, speeches, Jeremy and Natalie get together, Dana is secretly in love with Casey(publicly in love with Gordon), Dan is attempting to date a woman named Rebecca, and everything is pretty much right with the world. They manage to strike a perfect balance between the “outside” world and the world of their sports show. The team is good and they know it. Everyone is playing their best game and all ships are go.
Then suddenly, in the second episode of the second season tragedy strikes. Dana, who at this point is about to go on her first date with Casey after her engagement breaks off, decides that Casey should date other people before dating her. Meanwhile, the show within the show is apparently in need to some help, so they bring in a ratings guy to take a shot at it. And there is a turn for the serious when Dan starts going to therapy. It’s all very sudden and quite depressing actually. The good news is, it gets better.
The bad news is that I didn’t know it was going to get better. Around their Christmas/Y2K scare episode I start to loose faith that Sorkin will pull himself together and make this worth watching. Now sometimes when I loose hope I just push through and figure it out on my own. Other times (this one for example), I look at the episode descriptions of the upcoming episodes to try and tell myself that it will get better. And while as I said earlier, it does get better, the descriptions are not very good at showing that it gets better. Jeremy and Natalie break up, Dana’s dating plan goes terribly wrong when Casey starts to actually sort of see other women, to lash out Jeremy starts going out with a porn star, and I completely loose it.
For some reason the fact that this show was not going the way I wanted it to did not do good things to my psyche. I completely lost it. I was ranting to Allason, who doesn’t even understand my normal rantings much less my half-crazy ones. I claimed to have lost faith in humanity. I was nearly in tears (though I’m hanging onto the idea that the tears were caused by a separate conversation happening simultaneously). I wrote a lengthy email to my boss, to whom I frequently go to with my television woes, telling her my frustration. I being telling Allason a fitting sports metaphor about how a good horse can win with a bad jockey, but a good jockey can’t win with a bad horse, and how Sports Night had both a good horse, and a good jockey and was still spiraling.
But due to the response I get from my boss, my own internal need to finish what I start, and my inability to find the wish-fulfilling fanfiction I want, I continue watching. And it’s not as bad as I fear. I still cry when Dana and Casey are officially not even trying to be a couple anymore, and I’m feel terrible about Jeremy and Natalie’s break up, but it was all very well done. They managed to get back on the horse.
And I will always have problems with the dramatic change between seasons one and two. Dana’s complete change in demeanor and wardrobe for seemingly no reason at all. Not understanding why they started including a bar in the settings. Bringing in Sam Donovan, whose plot and performance never really blew my hair back. Big things, little things, some of which I understand that I’m the only one who cares about them and is bothered by them, and I’m okay with that. The important thing to remember is that it ended well.
Which of course leads us to what happens in my fictional head after the show is over. WARNING: What follows is borderline fanfiction. I don’t write fanfiction anymore, but if I did this would be the basic outline I would follow for Sports Night.
With the new network head Sports Night is given nearly everything they ask for. At some point during the deliberations Dana will ask for a flaming unicorn just to see it they’ll go for it. They don’t. Even so, she has her team and her show and that’s all that matters. Issac retires after the show is settled into it’s new digs. Dana doesn’t want to take his job but Natalie convinces her. Jeremy becomes the Executive Producer and others shift to fill in the changes. Natalie lands an on-camera job doing stand-ups at games. It’s a lot of traveling, but she lives for the voice in her ear telling her that she’s live. Dan and Casey are inseparable as ever. Dana once suggests that they get a second office so they could each have their own. They both say “No” at the exact same time.
When the dust settles again Casey decides it’s time to make his move on Dana. Dana doesn’t want to shake things up, but the entire studio and production team make it clear that nothing would change. They don’t get married. Casey is done with marriage, but they are happy and that’s what counts. Natalie and Jeremy are together and I’m quite pleased with that. With Natalie out of town so often things are hard sometimes, but they learn to deal. They learn to fight fair.
Dan is Dan. He continues to go to therapy, and things get better. And it’s not perfect. Nobody is. They all still fight and there’s still drama, and there are a few times when someone calls Issac to try and break up an argument, which is sentimental and entertaining, but doesn’t really solve anything. They loose people. Kim leaves, and Elliot soon after. It’s not that they didn’t like Sports Night, just that they got other offers. But overall they’re happy. They’re good at their jobs and they have each other. And none of them would have it any other way.
Overall I’d say it’s definitely worth watching. Be ready mentally for the drastic change from Season 1 to Season 2, but finish it anyway.