"Sports Night" questions, comments - open spoilers

(Spoilers are open, for both seasons.)

I’ve been watching Sports Night on Netflix streaming, just finishing up Season 1, and I have some questions/observations, and I wonder if any fans/viewers of this now 10-year old series had answers/replies…

  1. I noticed that many of the establishing thoughts show the office/studios to be near the WTC (for a while there, I thought the studio was in the WTC, but later episodes (specific reference to their building being 59 stories being key) dispelled that.) I wonder, if the show had survived into 2001-2002 season, how they would have handled 9/11?

  2. (Corrolary to 1): They also mention offices in Midtown, and sometimes the Empire State Building is used as an establishing shot - would these be the corporate headquarters?

Yes, I know… “repeat to yourself ‘it’s just a show, I really should relax’”, but still I’m a bit confused.

  1. Casey is rather bland. And a boring sportscaster (the little you see of them doing their jobs) - I don’t buy him being a funny-man who was offered “Conan’s job” at all.

  2. I’m still trying to determine if Felicity Huffman is pretty or distinctive.

  3. The first 6 or so episodes tended to deal with work issues and how the characters related to each other as professional colleagues, which I found rather interesting. Then it turned into the Relationship Show, with characters pulling each other into empty rooms to discuss who they’re (not) sexing.

  4. I like how they pull off the walk 'n talk. It adds an energy to the air.

  5. It seems the show suffers (1st season impressions only) from an inability to define what it is. Sometimes it wants to be a rom-com, sometimes it wants to be issues-oriented workplace drama, sometimes it wants to be a dramedy, sometimes it wants to explore the world of TV production.

Again, you may use open spoilers for season 2. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

This is really an interesting little show, one of my favorites. It’s full of inconsistancies though. The location of their building is never really narrowed down, but that’s the least of the loose threads.

In season 2, several of the characters do 180s on their relationships with little explanation. Jeremy dumps Natalie for no good reason (you’d think he’d never get another girlfried as hot as Natalie, but you’d be wrong; keep watching). Dana has an “epiphany” about Casey in I think the first episode of the second season. So most of the second season is devoted to these two conflicts.

Storylines are picked up and suddenly dropped - for example in one episode, Dana wanders into a church and has a deeply moving religious experience… that is never spoken of again.

However there continues to be fantastic dialogue in season 2. I especially love it when William H. Macy shows up.

You’re right that the show never decided if it was a sit-com or a half-hour drama. Looking at it now, you can see the whole series as Sorkin practicing for West Wing - a lot of the technique is there.

My guess is that it’s not the series so much as in-fighting between Sorkin and the ABC execs on what the show was. For instance, you’ll note that the laugh track comes and goes between episodes.

I remember wondering about (1) myself, though it’s somewhat unanswerable. Sorkin’s West Wing reply episode to 9/11, “Isaac and Ishmael”, was interesting, not outstanding. But the response in Sports Night would have been very different, considering the usual subject matter of the show, and that the characters work in a New York skyscraper.

Regarding (2), I understand that there is a throwaway line at one point that they’re in the Rockefeller center. There are many buildings that make up that complex, (including the one that gave ‘30 Rock’ its name,) and I’m uncertain if any of them are 59 stories tall.

Enjoy season 2!

Followup: According to wikipedia, the only 59-story buildings currently in New York City are:

  • Citigroup Center,
  • MetLife Building (aka Pan Am,) and
  • Hi, Opal!

None are part of Rockefeller center, so - the show is inconsistent with the real world, apparently. Big surprise. :slight_smile:

Regarding 9/11, there is an episode (I forget which season) which shows the cast and crew responding to a bomb threat that cleared the building. I think it’s Casey who gets particularly freaked out. I imagine a 9/11 episode might have been similar, if it was addressed at all. More likely the characters would have referred to the attacks in some context but I don’t think a whole episode would be built around it (since it was after all a comedy).

She can turn it on and off, seemingly at will.

One of my favorite shows of all time…

  1. They would have replaced it with something else. As they never tied themselves to a particular building, this would have been easy to do. They definitely would have addressed 9/11 in some fashion.

  2. Relax, it’s just a show. :smiley:

  3. Remember that Conan O’Brien, back in the day was just a funny writer (as Casey is supposed to be) and only turned performer after establishing himself as a writer. So it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that a network might take a chance (sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle) on someone like a Casey McCall who is (supposedly) a funny writer, comfortable in front of the camera, comfortable sitting behind a desk reading cue cards/teleprompter and used to interviewing celebrities/sports stars from time to time. Remember that Casey was patterned after Keith Olbermann who has moved on to other things.

  4. Obviously it’s subjective but I think she is unique looking. Still, my favorite (minor) character on the show was Kim (Kayla Blake). Could have used a lot more of her.

  5. Yeah, that stuff all comes and goes in season 2. Best thing about Season 2 IIRC is that the laugh track is finally dropped for good.

  6. A Sorkin/Schlamme trademark. I would have loved to have toured their set back in the day because it really felt like a real set of offices. I think my favorite Sorkin walk-n-talk was a scene on West Wing where the principle cast walked from the White House to the OEOB via the tunnel in one long uncut scene (as far as I could tell) .

  7. The laugh track that comes and goes is just the most obvious indications of the behind the scenes fighting over this show. So Sorkin simply wrote it all into his show-about-a-show and it really comes to a head when William H. Macey joins the cast (temporarily) in season 2. He plays a consultant hired by the network to improve their ratings. There’s a wonderful speech he gets to make about Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television (but it’s probably not what you’re thinking).

ESPN’s Page 3 did an article on Sports Night back in the day that was worth reading. It was part of a series of reel-life vs real life looks at movies and tv shows dealing with sports and separating fact from fiction: Keeping it real on ‘Sports Night’

The obvious answer is that she’s smoky.

Sports Night is my favorite television show of ALL TIME. So a lot of your questions I’ve actually dug into at one point and can give pretty decent answers to.

  1. Their true location actually doesn’t exist. I don’t have a cite for it, and I don’t know New York from a hole in my head, but people who DO know NY had a discussion on it that I read on a different message board and they discovered that the location can’t exist.

  2. It can be believable that he was offered Conan’s job if you see the relationship he has with Dan. They’re both funny but Casey is the more “controlled” funny (Conan) whereas Dan is the more one-liner/silly funny (Andy Richter if you will). He may not seem hilarious on screen because he’s playing the straight(er) guy of the two.

  3. Distinctive…she’s a strong woman

  4. The beginning of the show was simply character development for all the sexing later in the show. You had to know Casey was divorced and hurt, Jeremy was nutty and awkward, Dana was torn between work determination and a love live in order for her failed dates in season 2 to make sense, or for Jeremy to up and dump Natalie and not go out with hottie 2 because his head wouldn’t let him.

  5. Walk and talk in a hall? Classic Sorkin. William H Macy talking about Philo Farnsworth is just brilliant when you get there

  6. It wants to be a dramady in the workplace. The problem was once the show got going ABC killed it. Stay tuned to his new HBO series about a news tv show (CNN, Fox News, etc.) to probably get a taste of what Sports Night was intended to be
    That help at all? I’m by no means an expert but I love Sorkin (my hero!) and I love Sports Night

Casey was based on Craig Kilborn, a Sportscenter anchor who was given the Late Late Show by David Letterman.

It’s important to remember that this show was written shortly after real-life Sportscenter anchors Keith Olbermann and Craig Kilborn both left the show to work in mainstream TV. Kilborn specifically had just replaced Tom Snyder on the Late Late Show. Being that Conan was a NBC property at the time it’s little surprise that this plot line was worked in. It was less a “this fits the character’s persona” plot arc than it was a scene snatched from real life.

The source of my confusion: “You are the origin [of the series],” Sorkin told Keith Olbermann in an Esquire interview. (from the ESPN link up-thread). So Olbermann and Patrick were the inspiration for the show but Casey was actually based on Craig Kilborn. I think I’ve got it. Never been a big Sports Center fan and never watched any Craig Kilborn.

Just saw episode 1, season 2 (Isaac forgets the show is to be delayed, Dana and Casey kiss)… OMG, Felicity looks just horrible! I hope they ditch that look and quick. She’s too thin, hair way too long, and that makes her face longer, more moody.


I would call it a drama with comedy. Yes, there were plots about love and sex - Jeremy was a hero to a lot of geeks because he was the nerd who got the cute girl - but there were plenty of non-romantic plots as well: Dana’s brother taking steroids, Natalie’s assault by a football player, and Dana’s reaction to same, Isaac’s calling out Luther on air for his support of a racially insensitive college. The show did pass the Bechdel test, as well.

My favorite episode is “The Six Southern Gentlemen of Chattanooga” (although it bothered me that the writers created a fictional university called “Western Tennessee” located in Chattanooga. What, they didn’t have a single person on staff who knew that Chattanooga is in eastern Tennessee?) I love that ep for the scene at the very end, when Dan and Casey thank the costume designers and video editors and other behind-the-scenes saff on-air. Note the names and titles they say; then note the names and titles that appear in the credits. A Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, indeed.

I’m watching “Louis Revisited” (S2,E4) and Dan states “live from Rockefeller Center” during the SN “broadcast”. So why all the S1 establishing shots of lower Manhattan?

Isaac is my favorite character, and the two anchors are the leads, but I’m glad that this seems to be Dana’s show - I think Felicity Huffman is doing a great job, and I also think she (and my daughter) look a lot better with her hair pulled back.

Slow Moving Vehicle, it was Dana’s admission that she purposely sent Natalie into a dangerous situation with the football player that had me (at first) thinking that this was going to be a work-situation oriented dramedy. Then it turned into a rom-com.

JohnT, there are more workplace-oriented plots in season two, including a long arc about the sale of CSC and the possible cancellation of “Sports Night”. And of course, Jeremy and the choreoanimator…

I am remembering the scene where the wardrobe woman lectures Casey for not crediting her department’s efforts during a talk show interview. It didn’t bother me that much at the time, but it sure seems monumentally self-important now.

I loved the episode where Dan had writer’s block and Natalie kept using hiccup cures. I really loved Sports Night in general. And the West Wing. I guess I just like Sorkin.

The RCA (GE) building, aka 30 Rockefeller Plaza) is 70 stories.