Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sports Night: funny, funny and - yes - funny

So we're watching Sports Night on DVD for what must be the sixth time. For those who've never heard of it, Sports Night was a sitcom that ran for two seasons on US TV at the end of the 90s. What makes it more notable is the cast and crew who worked on the show. For a start, it was the first major TV vehicle of Aaron 'The West Wing' Sorkin. He created it and wrote most of the episodes. The show also teamed him up with director Thomas Schlamme, with whom he would envisage The West Wing, and the hilariously named music composer W. Snuffy Walden [not as funny a name as the guy who wrote music for Buffy The Vampire Slayeer, but few people's name is as funny as that of Thomas Wanker].

In front of the camera the show featured Felicity Huffman [now an Oscar-nominated actress for the film Transamerica and star of Desperate Housewives], Peter Krause [who starred in HBO's Six Feet Under], Joshua Malina [he replaced Rob Lowe on The West Wing from season 4] and a whole mess more of great actors. Almost everybody seen in Sports NIght has reappeared since on other shows, and virtually all of them passed through the halls of The West Wing. The sitcom seems to have become some sort of Kevin Bacon-esque portal from which most of the talent on US TV is only a few steps removed. Teri Polo, who plays JImmy Smits' wife on The West Wing? she was in Sports Night. The dead women who narrates Desperate Housewives? Sports Night. The list goes on and on and on...

I love watching Sports Night. For a start, it's bloody funny. The dialogue has that rat-a-tat-tat screwball delivery so beloved of Sorkin's best work on The West Wing. The actors are great, the scripts are damned funny. A lot of the personal plotlines got recycled wholesale for use on The West Wing, as did the walk-and-talk visual style that TWW became so famous for. The worst thing about Sports Night is individual episodes are so short, rarely much more than 20 minutes. They only made 45 episodes and it takes no effort to watch all of them in no time at all. If you enjoy The West Wing for its comedy, you'll love Sports NIght. And no, you don't have to know anything about sports [American or otherwise] to enjoy the show.

Sounds good? Want to give it a try? Sadly, the DVDs are only available in Region 1 format, so they'll only play on US or mutli-region enabled DVD players. Also, the discs in my boxed set are not the world's most stable, although our recent purchased DVD Recorder seems better able to cope with any kinks in the discs than our old multi-region player. Alternatively, readers in the UK can sometimes find Sports NIght on ABC1, a satellite/digital/cable channel in Britain. Elsewhere in the world, you may need to search around to sample the show's delights.

The good news is that Sorkin and Schlamme are developing a new comedy drama TV series. It's set behind the scenes at a weekly satirical TV show. The programme's currently awaiting a new name. Comedy Night, anyone?

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