23 August 2007

Sports Night

I basically don't watch television at all anymore, and haven't for a number of years now. I got pulled into following American Idol a couple seasons ago, almost entirely because of Chris Daughtry's great voice, but that was a rare exception. I just have too many other things to do with my time, and most of what I've been able to gather about television sitcoms don't impress me much. So, the odds of me getting hooked on a show are slim to none, and two days ago I would have guffawed at the outlandish suggestion that I could possibly get hooked on any show with "sports" in the title. Never say never.

Back in the day when I did watch a bit of television, it was notoriously the case that if I became interested in a series, it was probably approaching its final season. Family Ties, Early Edition, Lois & Clark, Sliders, it's like these shows existed to reel me in, introduce me to the characters until I actually cared what happened to them, and then break my heart by ending. I guess it is only fair that, having sworn off television altogether for the past many years, I should discover a show and fall in love with it long after it has come and gone. Sort of like when I discovered Led Zeppelin in the late 80s.

Actually, I shouldn't say that I "discovered" anything. I have my very dear friends, Jason and Emily, to thank for introducing me to Sports Night. They could tell by the way I rolled my eyes a bit when they mentioned it, that I was pretty skeptical I would even be able to stay awake for such a show, much less enjoy it. But they assured me that it wasn't what it sounded like, and the fact is that I would have watched it with them just for the sake of sharing the time and enjoying their company. Well, I was in for a surprise, because this Sports Night show, which only ran for a couple of seasons and then went off the air a decade ago, or some such, is an outstanding piece of television.

The show focuses on the production of a fictional sports program, exploring the relationships and foibles of the two anchors, the producer, the director, and the others folks who work to put the thing together and on the air each night. Picture something like the old Mary Tyler Moore show, only with sports instead of the news. It features intelligent humor, witty repartee, and, perhaps most surprisingly, rather poignant introspection on serious aspects of life and love. I was rolling in my seat with laughter most of the time, and then suddenly wiping a tear from my eye at some very touching gesture or profound point. The acting was good, the characters well developed and quite believable, and the back-and-forth between them had a great rhythm. There were some risque elements, but they were intermittent and didn't dominate the show.

I think the plan was to watch an episode or two, but I couldn't get enough, and we ended up watching four or five or six altogether. Great stuff. I was continually struck by the juxtaposition of savvy humor and thoughtful reflection. There was a genuine care and concern for the needs of the neighbor, and for serving within one's own particular station in life, even if the show didn't use any such terminology. One episode dealt with the respect and consideration due to all those "little people" behind the scenes, who make the folks up front look good. Another episode included reference to the 3000-year-old Greek ghost, Thespus, evidently the first actor to speak out loud on stage. I have to check that out, because the show claimed that he did so on the 23rd of November, which happens to be my son Gerhardt's birthday. Jason and Emily (and my DoRena) laughed at the prospect of giving the poor boy yet another middle name! But when the character who knew about Thespus was asked what the ghost liked to do, he explained that Thespus likes to humble people in order to bring their priorities back into line with what is truly most important. Sounded a lot like repentance to me.

Anyway, I'm hooked, and I either need to find an excuse to go visit Jason and Emily again, since they have the entire series on DVD, or else I need to break down and purchase it for myself. If anyone else happened to have missed it when it was on the air (back in the late 90s), I'd recommend it highly. It's smart and thought-provoking entertainment, and, as far as television sitcoms go, as good as anything I've ever seen.

1 comment:

T Sherman said...

This is an old post to be commenting on, but yeah "Sports Night" is really good stuff. I watched it when it was on TV then, and my wife and I have been watching it again on netflix.

Another show created by the same guy, Aaron Sorkin, came out a few years ago and only ran for one season, but like Sports Night, was excellent. This one was a behind the scenes look at a Saturday Night Live-style show, called "Studio 60." I'm pretty sure that the whole series is on Hulu.