Country of origin
W.G. Snuffy Walden
Josh CharlesPeter KrauseFelicity HuffmanJoshua MalinaSabrina LloydRobert Guillaume
American Broadcasting Company
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Sports Night is an American television series about a fictional sports news show also called Sports Night. It focuses on the friendships, pitfalls and ethical issues the creative talent of the program face while trying to produce a good show under constant network pressure. Created by Aaron Sorkin, the half-hour prime time comedy-drama aired on ABC for two seasons, from 1998 to 2000.
The show stars Robert Guillaume as managing editor Isaac Jaffe, Felicity Huffman as executive producer Dana Whitaker, Peter Krause as anchor Casey McCall, Josh Charles as anchor Dan Rydell, Sabrina Lloyd as senior associate producer Natalie Hurley and Joshua Malina as associate producer Jeremy Goodwin. Regular guest stars included William H. Macy as ratings expert Sam Donovan and Brenda Strong as Sally Sasser, the producer of West Coast Update (another show on the same network as Sports Night) and rival of Dana. Other notable guest stars included Paula Marshall and several who later appeared on Sorkin's The West Wing including Janel Moloney, Teri Polo, Ted McGinley, Lisa Edelstein, Clark Gregg, Nina Siemaszko, John DeLancie, Timothy Davis-Reed, Cress Williams, Nadia Dajani, and Spencer Garrett. In addition, both Malina and Huffman also appeared in The West Wing.
TV Guide ranked it #10 on their 2013 list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon".
The show is said to be a semi-fictional account of the ESPN SportsCenter team of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick, with Rydell representing Olbermann and McCall representing Patrick. Patrick has confirmed this on his syndicated radio program The Dan Patrick Show. It's also been said that many of the story lines for Casey McCall were inspired by Craig Kilborn, who was an anchor on SportsCenter during the mid 1990s.
The fictional Sports Night is a sports news program in the style of SportsCenter. The show broadcasts live from 11 pm to midnight and is rebroadcast through the next morning; it may broadcast at other times for special events, such as the NFL Draft. The program debuted in 1996 and airs from Rockefeller Center on the fictional Continental Sports Channel (CSC), a unit of Continental Corp, owned and run by Luther Sachs. Continental Corp owns cable networks around the United States; when the company is offered for sale, bidders include Time Warner, Disney, and News Corporation.
Both the fictional show and the network have competitive and financial difficulties. The network, according to Continental Corp's CFO, has an annual deficit up to $120 million. Although Sports Night does better than CNN/SI, Dana Whitaker says that Sports Night is "in third place. We are getting our asses kicked by ESPN and Fox". Natalie Hurley replies, "Every show on this network is in third place. It's a third-place network." When Sports Night is asked to interview Michael Jordan about his new perfume, the retired basketball star's publicity team demands final cut privilege—something it would not ask Fox or ESPN—because it believes that Sports Night is more desperate for ratings.
Although the first season of Sports Night is a sitcom, it often is portrayed as more of a comedy-drama representative of some of Sorkin's later work on The West Wing. Sorkin intended for the series' humor to be drier and more realistic than typical sitcoms. He initially wanted the show to be recorded without a laugh track, but ABC network executives insisted on including one. The volume of the laugh track faded as Season One continued and was abandoned at the beginning of Season Two.
The dialogue is often delivered at a rapid-fire pace and intentionally exposes many aspects of communication that go beyond the words that are spoken. The show also frequently employed a technique known as "Walk and Talk", where the characters are walking from one location to the next while in conversation. This is another characteristic of Aaron Sorkin shows as "walk and talks" are used quite frequently in The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. A number of similar themes, elements and actors carried over from Sports Night to The West Wing (and later Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip).
The show's main focus is the relationships between the characters. These include an off-again on-again flirtation and romance between Dana and Casey, the partnership of Natalie and Jeremy, and Dan's ongoing problems with relationships in general. The character of Isaac Jaffe hovers over his staff as a benevolent but uncompromising father figure.
The show is mostly set in the studio and station offices. However, in the second season Anthony's, a local sports bar and restaurant, was introduced as another location for scenes out of the work environment.
Sports Night struggled to find an audience and ABC cancelled it after two seasons. Although it had the opportunity to move to several different networks, including HBO, Showtime and USA, Sorkin decided to let the show pass so that he could focus on his popular drama, The West Wing.
On November 5, 2002, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released the entire series on DVD in Region 1 for the first time.
A special 10th Anniversary Edition Sports Night DVD set was released on September 30, 2008 from Shout! Factory with new bonus features including all-new interviews with creator Aaron Sorkin and cast & crew, featurettes and commentaries. Also included is a commemorative 36-page booklet.
In March 2010, Shout! Factory released Sports Night: Season One on DVD with just 16 episodes.