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Sports Night
The Complete Series

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: TV PG

Starring: Peter Krause, Josh Charles, Felicity Huffman, Joshua Malina, Sabrina Lloyd and Robert Guillaume

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $59.99

Features: None

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, 6-Disc Set, Episode Selections

Released: November 5th, 2002

 

 

Aaron Sorkin is pretty much a household name these days, being one of the most prolific writers in the entertainment industry (oh, and all those drug addition/kicking-the-habit/whatever stories - if you're a famous you can always expect some negative attention). Besides being known for writing such regarded films as "The American President" and "A Few Good Men," the man has gotten the most awards and attention for the NBC series "The West Wing." Still, before that hit drama, Sorkin got a lot of attention for "Sports Night" and rightfully so.

"Sports Night" is a half-hour situation comedy that centers around a nightly cable sports show (seems a bit like a popular ESPN program to me). Besides the struggles with certain stories, certain controversies and getting things together, the characters themselves have their own lives and problems too which at times intertwine with everything. It really might sound like nothing new and even standard, but just leave it to Sorkin and his amazing writing, and you really have yourself a real winner of a show that is anything but standard.

What I certainly admire about "Sports Night" is how so much gets across per episode in a mere 22 minutes. At times, you may feel you've watched a typical hour long television drama. What I think critics liked about the show so much and what made it so good was not only the constant character development and the true pressure-based feel, but this show had a lot of stories and issues that a lot of us could relate to or that paralleled stuff in the media. Truly, that was the show's greatest strength in how it accomplished such themes and ideas in a realistic manner. I always saw "Sports Night" as a show about moral and ethics, as it always brought out great topics and issues involving human integrity.

The show also excelled in other departments. The team of directors (including Tommy Schlame who would go on to be a force on "The West Wing") also captured those crucial moments for the episode's plotline itself and the characters. The acting was also phenomenal, as you really felt chemistry and sense of togetherness between the characters. Felicity Huffman also sparked a sweet intensity, Josh Charles and Peter Krause made a good team as they also had upbeat yet too human moments and the always wonderful, classy Robert Guillaume.

Many wonder with the success of "The West Wing" if "Sports Night" would have survived if the show had gotten better ratings. The answer is no. Aaron Sorkin himself it wouldn't have been possible to work on both shows, especially given the sucess of "The West Wing" (will someone PLEASE tell me how David E. Kelly does it?). Still, at a time there was hope the show might have been picked up by another network (rumor has it there was a possibility it would have ended up on HBO, but in the end, the only cable exposure this show had were reruns on Comedy Central, which I believe are still being shown). But no, none of that happened and the show more or less died a quick death and faded away. Maybe it's for the better, given how much success "The West Wing" received.

Given this is the complete series on DVD, you get every single episode of "Sports Night" produced (that includes the pilot). The show got a bigger run than most of you probably realize, at a decent 45 episodes. Did the show deserve more and did it deserve better treatment? Of course. But man, what an amazing 45 episodes these are. If you've never seen this show and just love solid, episodic television with great characters, great stories, great writing and solid laughs, you can't go wrong with "Sports Night." Do yourselves a favor and watch this show.

 

The complete series of "Sports Night" is presented in 1.33:1 full screen, and all the episodes look pretty good. The episodes seem a bit grainy, and maybe the transfers suffer slightly from compression artifacts. There are also some little inconsitint portions on the transfer, like a scratch or piece of dirt here and there. Noise and shimmering can also be noticed pretty often. Fleshtones look nice though, detail is pretty great and color saturation is bold and very solid. No, they're not perfect television transfers, but they do hold up and are quite good.

 

The English Dolby Surround tracks for "Sports Night" are nothing groundbreaking either, but also do hold their own. The show is definitely dialogue driven, and while the musical score adds to the ambiance, some little effects also come into play such as background talking in the newsroom office and the occasional laugh on the laugh track (like I said, couldn't they just not use the damn thing in total?). Given all the talking, everything comes together well here and works. No disappointments given the material. Also included are English subtitles and English closed captions.

 

Nothing. And no, the ABC promo cards in the first DVD case don't count.

 

"Sports Night" was yet another wonderful ABC series that was killed before its time, but at least it got a decent on-air run. The show helped make Aaron Sorkin an even more prolific TV writer (in addition to his feature film credits) which made a lot of people stand up and notice. Naturally, no one was surprised when "The West Wing" hit in 1999 and became a smash series for NBC. Still, "Sports Night" is nicely character based and issue based, and it will definitely be remembered for those even sides and breaking typical sitcom conventions. With sharp writing and great acting, it's just a shame the series on DVD didn't get any kind of supplements like retrospective interviews or commentaries. The presentation of the episodes are pretty good though, so if you're a fan of the show, this set is definitely worth picking up.