DVD Review: SPORTS NIGHT: Tenth Anniversary edition.

Shout! Factory
Release date: September 30th, 2008
MSRP: $69.99

Cast: Peter Krause, Felicity Huffman, Josh Charles, Robert Guillaume, Sabrina Lloyd, Joshua Malina

Sports Night in one of the great-lost treasures of television. The show debuted in 1998 and had many befuddled. The critics raved about it, but the general public seemingly had not a clue of its existence. After two seasons, it was canceled. Years later, it has become a cult classic with enough of a following to warrant this special release.

Aaron Sorkin (The West wing, A Few Good Men) presented us with a show that gives us a look behind the scenes of Sports Night, a fictional sports news show (ESPN’s Sports Center). We see what goes into making such a show possible.
But to say that Sports Night is about sports would be inaccurate. The show is actually about the cast and crew of the show and the relationships between them. It is not a comedy in the truest sense of the word, nor is it simply a drama.
Sports Night was break through television. It opted to avoid the confines of the standard television genres (Sit com, drama, action) that were the norm at the time. While they started with a laugh track, it was discarded. They built sprawling sets that allowed scenes to span several sets as characters walked from one place to another.
While many of its innovations are now common, the watchablity remains high. Honestly, I would say it is better than 90% of the television today. I think, were it launched today, it would fit right in on many of the cable networks.

Anchors Dan Rydell (Josh Charles) and Casey McCall (Peter Krause) host Sports Night. The two have a close friendship, though differences in personalities cause occasional clashes. He show is run by Executive producer Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman), a stylish woman that is more than capable in the workplace, and more than a little clueless in her personal life. Dana is assisted by senior associtate producer Natalie Hurley(Sabrina Lloyd) and associate producer Jeremy Goodwin(Joshua Malina). Robert Guillaume is Isaac Jaffe, the managing editor.

The cast chemistry is out of this world and the dialogue is fast and smart. The plotlines never felt forced, especially the relationships. One of the most impressive plots was the stroke of Isaac. In real life, Robert Guillaume suffered a stroke midway through the taping of season one. Sorkin opted to write it into the series, with all of America watching the actor’s return and long, hard road to recovery. Kudos to Mr. Guillaume for having the courage to allow Sorkin to use his tragedy in the series.

In 2002, a barebones six-disc set was released. At the time, nobody knew how much of a cult classic it would become.

The video quality is solid, but there is the occasional bit of grain. It is noticeable, but not bad enough to really detract from the viewing experience.

This set, while not overloaded with goodies, is a definite step up from the previous one, with commentary tracks as well as featurettes for both seasons.

There are eight commentary tracks, featuring a mix of Sorkin and Schlamme, along with most of the cast. All tracks are good, with some outstanding. Sorkin and Schlamme deliver great commentary on both the first and final episodes of the series.

Season one gets two featurettes: The Show runs a little under 35 minutes and talks about the creation of the show including casting. Pretty much everyone is interviewed, except Sabrina Lloyd (??).Her absence seems odd and I can’t help but wonder if there is some story behind it.

Face Off: ESPN’s Sportscenter vs. CSC’s Sports Night (21:03) is an extremely interesting look at the fictional Sports Night and the show that inspired it. Sorkin, Schlame, director Berlinger, director of Photography Smokler as well as several cast members, along with Sportscenter anchors and producers, talk about the two shows. The entire Sportscenter crew praise the series, pointing out they got far more right than wrong.

Season two also has two featurettes:
Looking Back with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Sclamme is exactly what it sounds like, the two talk about the creation of the show and how it developed. Most of this was covered in the previous featurettes. Still, you can see the chemistry the two have.

Inside the Locker Room is quite interesting. It looks at the technical innovations of the series. The set was a complete one, with rooms connecting to as to allow characters to move from one room to another in the same scene. More shows do this today, but it was new at the time. Watching this made me appreciate Sports Night even more.

If there is one thing I would have liked to see, it would have been a roundtable of cast and crew with their thoughts ten years after. As previously mentioned, the show has developed a cult following and it would have been fun to watch them together again.

If you enjoy rich, dynamic characters and smart, sharp dialogue, I would say that Sports Night is a can’t-miss purchase. I would go so far as to say that Sports Night is an essential part of everyone’s library. Fans of the series will find this a worthy upgrade, and for those that did not buy the first release, this is A MUST OWN.

Order Sports Night: Tenth Anniversary edition from Amazon.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.