Sports Night: Getting Off Track with the Laugh Track

Day two of TV week.

In any list about television, it seems only fitting that Aaron Sorkin makes an appearance somewhere. While normally “West Wing” would have been my television show of choice, I think it’s important to look at where Sorking started. The oddly titled “Sports Night” follows te professional and personal lives of the cast and crew of a late night sports show. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because if we’re being entirely realistic here take any Sorkin show, change the location and you have the same as the last one. This isn’t a criicism. After all, Guy Ritchie’s been doing it with movies since Lock, Stock and I’m still a fan.

Sorkin’s trademark “walk and talk” began with “Sports Night” when the show first debuted. It featured fast-paced dialogue, quippy jokes, and rapid fire banter. While some people may question the reality of this tv show within a tv show, it remains enjoyable to watch. Even if the show’s premise sounds a little thin for some of you, which I was admittedly initially a little skeptical, one of the saving graces is the cast.I’m not sure how they manage to do it, but the cast of “Sports Night” is endearing from the very beginning. There’s such chemistry and charisma between all them and how they play off each other that the half-hour sitcom seems to fly by. Leading this cast are two TV favorites; Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”) and Peter Krause (“Six Feet Under”). Although they may be the most recognizable names and faces from the show, the rest of the cast are equally engaging. However, it is Dana and Casey’s relationship, be it professional or romantic or whatever, that keeps the show moving through all of its various plotlines.

While the show is interesting and funny and, at times, appropriately dramatic, it’s not a perfect show. This may be off putting to some folks, and I can understand why, but for some reason ABC felt compelled to tell its audience when to laugh. Canned laughter has the ability to greatly distract from a show and “Sports Night” does suffer for it. However, I don’t think that ABC’s misguided decisions should discount from the quality acting and storylines. The show is still one of the stronger shows that I’ve seen, and an impressive television debut for Sorkin, but the laugh track does take some getting used to.

With its tagline, “Sports Night” dispels all fears for those of us who aren’t necessarily the biggest into watching sports. “It’s about sports like Charlie’s Angels is about law enforcement”. Showcasing that Aaron Sorkin wit, “Sports Night” is what it seems more shows should strive for. It’s actively engaging with a little bit of drama and just enough comedy to make it a pleasant escape from our own lives. Sadly, the laugh track that I mentioned before proved to be a death sentence for “Sports Night” and it was cancelled after 2 seasons. However, that doesn’t mean they weren’t a hell of a 2 seasons. For those of you with Netflix or an interest in Aaron Sorkin, I recommend at least giving “Sports Night” a try. Even with the laugh track and all, at worst, it’s a pleasant way to spend a free evening.

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