13 July 1999
Sorkin night - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
After impressing critics and the movie going public with A Few Good Men and The American President, Aaron Sorkin created a television series. Not just any television series, but probably one of the only bright spots in last year’s television season, Sports Night. The ABC sitcom which stars Peter Krause and Josh Charles as two thirty something anchors of the fictional Continental Sports Channel’s Sports Night, a sports show a la Global Sports Page, Sports Desk or ESPN’s Sports Center. Felicity Huffman plays the stressed out and mega driven producer while Robert Guillaume watches over as the show’s senior producer.
Sports Night is a look behind the big bucks world of television production, and in this series its flirtation with that other big bucks world of sports. With rapid fire dialogue driven by a fabulous ensemble cast, Sports Night also has the look of televerite that The Larry Sanders Show had. (As a matter of fact, they both share the same Director of Photography.) What Sorkin has done is capture the inner workings of this side of the sports TV business, something he did so well in capturing the White House in The American President or the marines in A Few Good Men. Blessed by very good critical praise, Sports Night has failed to ignite into the top 25, even if they’re scheduled in-between Spin City and the once again hot NYPD Blue.
The dialogue is so well written that it can mix speed with poignant moderation as the plot thickens from peppy to tug-at-your-heartstrings thought-provoking. A plus this show has is the fact it can be thought-provoking. Sports Night has tackled substance abuse, Robert Guillaume’s real-life stroke, abuse, the harsh reality of the breakup of a relationship to network paranoia and censorship. This is a first class show that has superb writing, innovative direction, a remarkable cast and a most creative setting. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate this show and at Emmy time, I certainly hope this show gets a whole stack of nominations. Aaron Sorkin returns next season with a new dramedy, The West Wing. Created with John Wells, the man who’s helmed ER and starring Rob Lowe and Martin Sheen, this show goes into the inner workings of The White House. With the quality of work Sorkin has since amassed, he’s on his way of joining the TV club that already boasts Aaron Spelling, Stephen Bochco and David E. Kelley. Sports Night is on ABC, 9:30, Tuesday’s and The West Wing is on NBC this fall.
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