“Sports Night” was the brain child of Aaron Sorkin, the man behind the TV shows “West Wing” and “Studio 60,” as well as movies like A FEW GOOD MEN and CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR. And the standard Sorkin rules apply here as well; spitfire, well-written dialogue, the always moving “walk and talk” camera that follows chatty characters through the halls, and a penchant for slyly sneaking in serious subject matter ranging from politics to divorce to ethical dilemmas. Sometimes it can feel a little preachy (thought not as much as “Studio 60” did), but Sorkin’s talent lies in keeping the tone comic and light despite the topic at hand. All and all, the ingredients made for a very different “sitcom” than the usual comedic half hours studios were used to putting out. That was evident by the very awkward and sporadic laugh track that was forced upon the show at the beginning of the series.
While “The West Wing” and “Studio 60” were dramas with comedic moments, “Sports Night”was the opposite, a sitcom with twinges of dramatic flair. And to be honest I like it better this way. While other shows relieved the tension and drama of their surroundings with a well placed joke, “Sports Night” heightened the humor of everyday life (laugh track be damned) by punching it in the face with a relatable, often poignant, conflict or situation. You can be cracking up at the nonstop antics of the crew behind the scenes, but then Sorkin pulls the rug out with a serious moment like Dan’s on air apology or Natalie’s sexual assault. It takes a lot of careful balancing of a specialized cast of characters fleshed out by great actors like Peter Krause, Felicity Huffman and Robert Guillame. The relationships and conflicts evolved week-to-week in the way that only great writing combined with great chemistry can. The result was a truly special television show that fired on all cylinders until an early and untimely demise.
Commentary by Everyone: Eight episodes get commentary from random people. I think pretty much everybody ever involved with the show make an appearance on at least one track. As a result, each 22 minutes is packed with vital info, stories and laughs from the set. Sorkin is quick to cover the dreaded laugh track early on, but gets to pretty much everything else by the end.
The Show (33:48): Retrospective interviews with the cast and crew as they look back at their experiences working for CSC. It’s also cool seeing everyone a decade later. (Felicity Huffman still looks good!)
Face Off (21:04): The people behind “Sports Night” take on their pseudo-counterparts at ESPN’s SportsCenter. Not surprisingly, the real life sports casters were big fans of the bizarro alternate reality created by Sorkin. A fun extra that sports and ESPN fans are sure to enjoy.
Season 1 Gag Reel (11:48): Your standard laughs, flubs and quips…just longer. The quality’s kinda crappy as it’s taken from a rare VHS tape from the season one wrap party.
Looking Back (26:09): Aaron Sorkin and directing partner Thomas Schlamme sit down and shoot the shit. (Schlamme made SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER, fyi.) This show was the first time the two met, and considering where the pair later went, you can imagine they have plenty to say. There’s a lot of sucking up, but you feel like the guys earned it.
Inside the Locker Room (21:16): A look at the technical background and how the crew tried to set Sports Night apart from other sitcoms, from the hybrid of multi-camera and single camera shooting to the famed “walk and talk.”
Season 2 Gag Reel (1:54): More of the same, but much shorter this time around.
Some original Promos that ran on ABC and a 36-page Booklet with behind the scenes photos and info.
Extra Tidbit: Peter Krause’s character, Casey Rydell, is based on former SportsCenter anchor and eventual talk show host Craig Kilborn.