STUDIO: Shout! Factory
MSRP: $51.99
RUNNING TIME: 1200 minutes
•  The Show featurette
•  Face Off: ESPN’s SportsCenter vs. CSC’s Sports Night
•  A Conversation with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme
•  Inside The Locker Room
•  Season Gag Reels
•  8 Episode Commentaries
•  Original Promos
•  36-Page Booklet including an introduction by creator Aaron Sorkin

The Pitch

It’s SportsCenter through a West Wing lens.

The Humans

Josh Charles, Peter Krause, Felicity Huffman, Joshua Malina, Sabrina Lloyd, Robert Guillaume, Kayla Blake, Greg Baker, Timothy Davis-Reed.

The Nutshell

In this, Aaron Sorkin’s first foray into dramatic television, a year before The West Wing, the behind-the-scenes goings-on of a nightly
SportsCenter-style show are explored.  Although it didn’t last long (45 episodes), the groundwork for a lot of successful careers were laid in this show about sports, that was hardly about sports at all.

Schlamme: “…and I think what I really took away from working on Sports Night was that-“
CHUD Interviewer: “Yeah yeah, that’s great, Mr. Schlamme.  But w
e’ve heard around the water cooler that you have the nickname Tommy ‘The Salami’ Schlamme.  Is that true?  And more importantly, is it justified?”
Schlamme: “Well, I must say, you’re very well informed.  Would you like to see?”
CHUD Interviewer: “No I…okay sure…”

The Lowdown

I watched Sports Night here and there back when it was on the air and I hadn’t seen it since it was cancelled in 2000.  I’d forgotten just how sharp the writing was and the work done by the actors, whom I’m surprised didn’t get carpal tunnel in their tongues from spouting out Sorkin’s mile-a-minute dialogue.  Sorkin came bolting out of the gate with this show, his first.  Although most of the actors had done notable work beforehand,
Sports Night was the real launching pad for a number of television careers, the least of which isn’t Sorkin himself. 

CHUD Interviewer: “Thank you for agreeing to sit down with us again, Felicity.  I know our last interview got a tad inappropriate.”
Huffman: “That’s putting it mildly.”
CHUD Interviewer: “Well no more TransAmerica questions, I promise.  This time we’re interested in Kim Possible, because you once had a small role on there as Dr. Betty Director.”
Huffman: “Yes, yes I did.”
CHUD Interviewer: “So uh…any chance of you participating in a Kim Possible hentai video?  Felicity?  Felicity wait!  Where are you going…?”

The signature of the show was the snappy dialogue and character interactions in spouting it off.  I think Sorkin cut his teeth doing that on this show and then adapted it to his more successful West Wing.  And the level of the detail in the sports areas of the stories are Cosell-ean in nature.  There’s stuff that must have taken a team of researchers days to come up with for each episode.

Krause: “Yes, I really enjoyed playing a sports anchor.  I’m a big sports fan in reality, you know.  Plus I used to play a lot of sports.”
CHUD Interviewer: “Yeah, we heard you especially liked pole vaulting.”
Krause: “What the hell is that supposed to mean?!  Is that some kind of gay joke or something?
CHUD Interviewer: “No, I just have it here in my notes that -
Krause: “You know, Felicity was right about you.  You are a prick!” *storms off*
CHUD Interviewer: “What? It’s on your friggin’ IMDB page for chrissakes…”

Sports Night was basically working in two arenas: the characters’ interpersonal relationships and their obsession with sports.  The show moved seamlessly between the two.  One minute, the dialogue would be on the sports item du jour and then next it’d be about who was banging whom or who liked whom or who just broke up with whom.  One element of the show I like is that Sorkin didn’t want to use a laugh track, although ABC insisted, but he managed to steadily lower the volume on it until it disappeared by Season 2.

CHUD Interviewer: “So, Joshua, according to our records, you’ an avid poker player.”
Malina: “Yes, that’s true.  I love it, can’t get enough.”
CHUD Interviewer: “Yeah, you love it so much that you’re still into Knuckles Malone for 65 grand.”
Malina: “Wha- ?  I, I mean I…uh…that is…”
CHUD Interviewer: “You know, Mr. Malone doesn’t like it when people skip town owing him money.  Especially Hollywood pantywaists drawing royalties on a DVD box set.  Like Sports Night for example.”
: “Please, I didn’t mean to…I…oh god!”
CHUD Interviewer: “Shhh.  Why don’t we go onto the balcony and discuss it…

Generally speaking, all of the cast members were doing solid work on this show.  Josh Charles and Peter Krause had good chemistry as the Keith Olbermann / Dan Patrick-based anchors.  Felicity Huffman displayed a lot of the traits that she currently showcases on Desperate Housewives.  Sabrina Lloyd was fine as Natalie and Robert Guillaume filled out the fatherly role of Isaac, the boss.  Joshua Malina frequently stole the show as nerdy stat guru Jeremy.

CHUD Interviewer: “You were recently on an episode on Law & Order: SVU, weren’t you, Josh?”
Charles: “Yes I was.  Great experience.”
CHUD Interviewer: “That Mariska Hargitay is some piece of ass ain’t she?”
Charles: “Uh, yeah she is…I guess.  But I don’t really -“
CHUD Interviewer: “Is it me or does she look like she could suck start a Harley.”
Charles: “WTF?!  I’m getting you tossed out of here!  What agency are you with?!

CHUD Interviewer: “Aint It Cool…”

Sorkin frequently battled with ABC over the promotion of the show and other production notes.  When the viewership never solidified for it, ABC cancelled it.  Sorkin had the chance to take it to another network, but decided to just end it so he could concentrate on West Wing.  I’m not a fan of that call, but it was of course his to make.  At least this show got the respect it deserved on this DVD offering.

The Package

Respect indeed.  This eight-disc offering is loaded.  Unfortunately the show was shot in TV standard, but other than that, they look fine. Here’s how the special features break down:

CHUD Interviewer: “So you played Rafiki in Lion King, correct?”
Guillaume: “Yes.”
CHUD Interviewer: “Rafiki.  What kind of bullshit name is that anyway?”
Guillaume: “It’s Swahili.”
CHUD Interviewer: “For what, Disney sellout?”
Guillaume: “Young man, who do you think you are?”
CHUD Interviewer: “Fabfunk.  Why do you ask…?”

The Show is a quite good 33-minute, in-depth look back at Sports Night with creator/writer Aaron Sorkin, directors Thomas Schlamme and Robert Berlinger, cast members Felicity Huffman, Peter Krause, Josh Charles, Joshua Malina, and Robert Guillaume, Emmy award-winning editor Janet Ashikaga, Emmy(r) award-winning director of photography Peter Smokler, producer John Amodeo, and set designer Thomas Azzari. It’s good to get all of the characters’ (except for Sabrina Lloyd, who is absent) takes on the show, one for which they seemed to love working.  It also includes never-before-seen behind-the-scenes home movies shot by John Amodeo.

Face Off: ESPN’s SportsCenter vs. CSC’s Sports Night is another very good piece where the real life counterparts – anchors and staff – of
SportsCenter compare their experiences and their takes on Sports Night, and the cast and crew of Sports Night do the same for SportsCenter.  Interesting and unique piece.  If only Olbermann and Patrick could have been in on it, though.

Sorkin: “I’ve heard from my actors that you’ve been abusing them in interviews. 
And you smell of tequila.”
CHUD Interviewer: “Yep, Cuervo.  Only the best.”
Sorkin: “Well I’ve just spoken with Nick Nunziata and he told me to tell you you’re fired.”
CHUD Interviewer: “You mean you don’t want me back to cover your 30 Rock DVD junket next month?”
Sorkin: “I didn’t do that show, I did Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”
CHUD Interviewer: “Oh right.  The one that didn’t not suck.”
Sorkin: “Get out.”
CHUD Interviewer: “Thanks again, Mr. Bochco…”

Looking Back with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme is a 26-minute interview where the two executive producers really give you their inside take on the show, what it took to make it, the origins, etc.  This is yet another good feature where you see the commitment these two had to the show.

Inside The Locker Room is a look at the innovations of Sports Night with Aaron Sorkin, Thomas Schlamme, Robert Berlinger, Janet Ashikaga, Peter Smokler, John Amodeo, and Thomas Azzari, whereby they talk about how they wanted to transcend the conventional sitcom norms and go for a hybrid type of show instead.  They get into how the show was written, staged and shot.  This feature clocks in around 21 minutes.  There are two season gag reels, the first running about 12 minutes, the other running around two minutes only.  These are some genuinely funny gags, a lot of them taken from personal home movies of the cast and crew. 

There are also eight episode commentaries including creator/writer Aaron Sorkin, director/executive producer Thomas Schlamme, director Robert Berlinger, editor Janet Ashikaga, and cast members Peter Krause, Josh Charles, Joshua Malina, Sabrina Lloyd, Greg Baker, Kayla Blake, Timothy Davis-Reed, and Ron Ostrow.

A 36-Page Booklet including an introduction by creator Aaron Sorkin rounds out the offerings.  There are really no throwaway features on the bonus discs.  They all give you a sense that this was a special kind of show and the copious participation by both the cast and crew reflects that.  This is an excellent box set.

8.8 out of 10