Amanda Gates

TV: Reliving Sports Night & Sorkin

I watched Sports Night when it first aired back in 1998. I loved the show, and I was disappointed when it was canceled just two seasons in. I loved it so much, that a few years ago when the complete season came out on DVD, I added it to my Amazon Wish List. But I never got it. Well, after a decade or so, it’s easy to forget why you used to love something. Was it just Peter Krause that I loved? Felicity Huffman? Because since The American President, The West Wing and Studio 60, Aaron Sorkin can pretty much do no wrong by me? Probably all of the above.

When I discovered recently that I could stream the whole series on Netflix, I jumped. And from the first two minutes of the first episode, I remember why I loved it (yes, it was all of the above, and more, like Joshua Malina, a Sorkin muse of sorts). Minus the laugh track, of course. Man, I hate laugh tracks. (Fortunately, Sports Night ditched the laugh track part way through the series.)

The thing about watching this Sorkin show again, though, is I’m seeing all the creator’s fingerprints. See, back then, I really had no idea who Aaron Sorkin was. Those were the David E. Kelley days. (Bygones. Poughkeepsie. Bobby Donnell. They all deserve their own blog posts.) But after my love for The West Wing, I learned more about Mr. Sorkin, and he’s (obviously) all over Sports Night.

+ The Walking. Sorkin is known for making his characters walk the halls. It’s made fun of relentlessly, with SNL-type spoofs of people just walking in circles while talking, ending up back where they started. He did the same in Sports Night; they don’t walk as much at CSC as at The White House, but walk/run they do.

+ The Repeated Questions/Statements. Sorkin likes to make characters repeat themselves. I don’t know if his characters are slow or hard of hearing—or, more likely, he thinks the viewers are slow or hard of hearing—but characters are always asking for other characters to repeat themselves. Or, if they’re not doing that, they’re at least repeating a part of the conversation, for emphasis, over and over or before they exit the scene. Thing is, I actually like this technique.

(Somewhat of an example)

Casey: I speak four languages.

Dan: You speak three languages.

Casey: I speak four languages.

Dan: You speak German, French, and Italian.

Casey: I dabble in a little English.

+ The Speeches. Sorkin pretty blatantly, and unapologetically, hits home his agendas in every show. In just the first few episodes, we already had quick-talking speeches about legalizing marijuana, the poor showing of the democratic party (remember, this is 1998), the rights of gays, the ridiculousness of professional athletes being put on pedestals even if they’re criminals (I mean, this is a SPORTS show and he holds no bars having his sports ANCHORS take athletes down a notch), the barbaric nature of hunting wild game, the confederate flag being flown, and so on.  

+ The Female Lead. Whether it’s Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman) or C.J. Cregg (Alison Janney), Sorkin gives females some pretty good, meaty and funny roles. Sure, there’s usually a love triangle going on, but these women are also successful, smart and, again, funny all on their own.

I consumed this show so quickly, and now I miss it. (And what the heck happened to Sabrina Lloyd? A couple guest spots here and there really doesn’t seem like enough. I loved her, too.) I like that, unlike, say, Veronica Mars, the show knew it was ending and wrapped (almost) everything up nicely.

Any other Sorkin fans out there? I didn’t even get into The Social Network, which was also great and all-Sorkin-everywhere. What other techniques does he exploit well (or not so well)?



Thanks Jennie! I'm so glad you liked the show.

I loved this post and you hit

I loved this post and you hit the nail on the head with every point! I wondered the exact same thing about Sabrina Lloyd. Everyone else went on to big things except her! Poor Natalie. I loved her.

New Sorkin Fan

We just started watching Sports Night, and LOVE it. I do notice what you wrote about, the walking and repetition for sure. But it works, there is something about all of it put togther that makes the 21 minutes fly by too fast. The humor actually makes us laugh out loud, which can be tough!
Thanks for turning us on to Sports Night! We are glad there are ~45 episodes, this is one we will watch until the end!

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