MS. FORTUNE Reaser takes a chance on fate.
Photograph: Cliff Lipson/CBS MS. FORTUNE Reaser takes a chance on fate.
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Sports Night: The Complete Series Tenth Anniversary Edition

4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

Aaron Sorkin’s first TV venture was a punchy, half-hour comedic drama about a SportsCenter-like news program—a tough sell for ABC in the fall of 1998, when the network was still known for “TGIF” fare. The show was funny, but only for people who found humor in yacht racing (which turned out to be not that many). The show eked out two seasons before succumbing to dismal ratings, as quirky, critically acclaimed gems are wont to do.

Sports Night replaced the workplace sitcom boilerplate with a realistic style that foreshadowed single-camera comedies like Arrested Development. It made heroes of witty sports anchors Casey McCall and Dan Rydell (Peter Krause and Josh Charles), a pair of Dan Patrick and Craig Kilborn stand-ins writ noble. The villains, transparently, were writer’s block and meddling network execs. Like any good comedy cast, the characters were ridiculously attractive and slept around, but they took their fictional jobs seriously, too.

“The network made us use a laugh track,” laments Sorkin during one episode commentary on the 8-disc DVD set, noting that the show’s staccato rhythms were a bad fit for such sitcom conventions. Retrospective material highlights the career trajectories of Sorkin and his cast, including small-screen stalwarts Krause and Felicity Huffman, and an ESPN-based featurette praises the show’s technical faithfulness. Mentions are made of how Sorkin repurposed the show’s plotlines in his later series, but on Sports Night they were still fresh, only sprinkled with the self-righteousness that would bog down his later projects.

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