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Sports Night, if you haven't heard of it, is the show Aaron Sorkin created before The West Wing. It was a half-hour show set backstage at a late-night cable show called, yes, Sports Night, and ran between 1998 and 2000. Thanks to the kindness of lamentables, I've been gradually working my way through it over the past couple of months.

Now, I knew from a certain episode of The West Wing that Sorkin seemed to be a space fan, but I was still taken a bit by surprise by 'The Sweet Smell of Air'. Dana Whitaker, the producer of Sports Night, wants to discuss a potential Michael Jordan interview with her boss, the managing editor Isaac Jaffe:
DANA: Hi, Isaac--

ISAAC: Hi. Dana, listen to this, this is fantastic. [reads from magazine] "Bioengineering might one day create living creatures adapted to survival in space."


ISAAC: Space birds.

DANA: ... OK.

ISAAC: Don't you wanna know how they're gonna fly without air?

DANA: Uh ... OK.

ISAAC: It says here they're gonna fly on sunlight.

DANA: ... So, we got this Michael Jordan offer ...

ISAAC: And further out where the sunlight grows weaker, they're gonna bioengineer a squid.

DANA: ... Squid?
ISAAC: Yes! Swimming not in water, but in space. [reading again] "Drawing volatile fuels from Jovian moons to power their gentle but efficient propulsion systems."

DANA: ... uh ... Michael Jordan ...?

ISAAC: "Their utility could be comparable to that of horses and mules in the winning of the West."


ISAAC: I can see myself out there. Sitting alone by the fire. A space squid my only companion.

DANA: Isaac!

ISAAC: Michael Jordan.

DANA: Yes.

ISAAC: They wanna talk about cologne.

DANA: In the press kit, they accidentally included coaching notes for Michael on how to bring the interview back to the cologne. [hands Isaac the notes]


DANA: Yeah. Do we book the interview?

ISAAC: Absolutely.

DANA: [baffled] Isaac!

ISAAC: Absolutely!

DANA: And talk about perfume?

ISAAC: Cologne!

DANA: There's no difference!

ISAAC: Michael's Michael. Let him talk about what he wants.

DANA: You really wanna use Sports Night for a five-minute infomercial?

ISAAC: With Michael? Sure.

DANA: Isaac ...

ISAAC: You know, just ten years ago it would've been hard to imagine a black man selling cologne.

DANA: Eight-year olds are buying aftershave, Isaac, I'm not sure it's a huge step forward.

ISAAC: I'll take any step forward.


ISAAC: Dana?

DANA: Yeah.

ISAAC: They're talking about bioengineering animals and terraforming Mars. When I started reporting Gemini missions just watching a Titan rocket lift off was a sight to see. Now they're gonna colonise the solar system.

DANA: Are you obsessing about this?


DANA: Why?

ISAAC: [beat, shrugs] Because I won't be alive to see it.

DANA: [beat] OK. [leaves]

ISAAC: [turning back to his magazine] Space squid ... and there's a drawing. This is gonna be in-credible ...

Reports that Aaron Sorkin is a Stephen Baxter fan remain unconfirmed.
Aw, I miss Sport's Night
You watched Sports Night and yet skipped out on The West Wing?
Two words: Rob Lowe.

But Sam's great!
Maybe he is, but you asked why I didn't watch. (But yes, I really am going to watch sometime soon. I swear.)
There's an odd undertone, watching it now, given that the channel's based at the WTC and every one of them would most likely have perished in 2001.
Yes, especially since it's very clearly tied to its particular point in time, given the millennium episode and so forth.

Although that said, I get the impression most of them work noon-to-midnight, so ...
The real killer for that kind of plotline was Third Watch, one episode of which ends with an early morning alarm for the misc cast of firemen, cops and medics. The next episode opens without any obvious reason for large chunks of the cast missing, and it's quite a while before the topic is raised. Powerful stuff.
I absolutely loved that show, and caught every episode when it was rerun on Comedy Central.
Sports Night is largely great. Space squid are great. It's all good.
WEST WING I could never get into. No idea why.

SPORTS NIGHT was kind of funny. I liked it when I saw it on TV but my exgf has the DVDs and when I watched them, I found myself developing an aversion to the show akin to my brother's Freezer-Full-Of-Rotten-Meat incident. I think the whining, the neuroses and the twitches [1] were fine for me as long as a week went by between episodes but watching five or six back to back was just too much.

It's kind of like the time I read five Orson Scott Card novels in a row. These days, he can irritate me in a few pages but back then it took at least three books for me to start noticing his little quirks. Five, in particular five with FOLK OF THE FRINGE as the final one, was a big mistake.

1: This obviously doesn't apply to Isaac, who seemed to be the only real adult in the bunch. Also, let me think here, also the only one who had kids, right? Everyone else was single or divorced with no spawn?
Casey had an adorable little boy who lived with his mom (Casey's ex-wife whose name I think was Lisa). Remember the episode when Casey has to accept that his son was not good at sports and tell his son that it was okay not to be good at sports? Good stuff.
How odd -- we just watched this episode. We've been rewatchin Sports Night for the past few days because there's Nothing Else On. (Although the Primetime Live special on Pope Joan I half-watched last night -- while reading Ander Monson's EXCELLENT collection -- was good, laughable fun.)

I have now run out of Sports Night and been reduced to watching The Inside. Roll on January and new episodes of good things, please.
I've never yet seen Sports Night, though I very much want to. Not least because I have an obsession with Joshua Malina that borders on the unhinged.
Yes, if you like Joshua Malina you definitely need to watch Sports Night. He gets a lot more room to play with there than I've seen him get on The West Wing.
Sorkin's a little like Joss Whedon or Russell T Davies: he uses actors, likes what they do and then pulls them for future projects. With Whedon, it's Buffy and Firefly; with Davies, it's The Second Coming / Casanova and Doctor Who.
Plus, Malina plays essentially the same character in Sports Night and The West Wing.

I know he has a walk on role in A Few Good Men, and he does something in The American President but I can't for the life of me remember what. Hmmm... IMDB isn't giving me any clues, although it does reveal he was in the rather excellent From the Earth to the Moon.
At some point, I must buy that series. Or steal my friend Ray's copy.
He's the assistant to Sydney way (Annette Bening).
He's the assistant to Sydney Wade (Annette Bening).
Mmmm, Joshua Malina :)
You should never watch the later seasons of The West Wing, in which his idealistic character suddenly becomes an unlikeable pragmatist for no clear reason.
The latest Will plot developments (7x08 - 7x09) have John Wells' fingerprints all over it.
When was he decapitated by a helicopter? Oh right, the thing with thingy. :-P Actually this season has seen a slight return to the Will of yore.
I've got a bunch of S6 and S7 stuff on CD from groolover which I haven't watched the whole of yet, but already Will's being written into something he's not. But then, so's the entire damn cast >:(
It's far more pronounced with Will; they seem to have taken the conscious decision to do something different with the character. (With Sorkin having left it's a tad inconvenient to have a character sitting around whose sole purpose is to write extremely well...)

The other characters at least loiter near the ballpark of their original selves. And late S6 onwards does see a slight improvement.
*cries for por lost Will* :(
Never mind. Just watch Sports Night instead. :-)

I'd offer to loan you my DVDs but someone at work borrowed them ages ago, and they haven't been seen since. I fear for their safety. They even did a detailed re-enactment on Crimewatch, using a different DVD wearing the same sleeve.
That's very kind (if doomed!) ... I did try and watch it just now but it seems we no longer get ABC1 on our Freeview box. Weird :(