NY Renaissance, 30 second highlights, and conversationally anal retentive on Sports Night

I finally started watching my Sports Night DVDs last night.  I’ve seen 1.5 discs so far; I love, love, love it.

I remember coming across the show back when it was on TV in the late 90s, but because my appreciation of televised sports back then was not what it is today, I never paid it much mind.  Created by Aaron Sorkin, the show centers on the anchors, technicians, and producers of Continental Sports Channel (CSC) and the daily hustle-bustle of making “Sports Night,” hence the title of the TV series.

Isaac Jaffe (Robert Guillaume) is the managing editor of  “Sports Night” and Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman), the executive producer, oversee the nightly creation of their staff:  associate producer Natalie Hurley (Sabrina Lloyd), statistician and walking encyclopedia Jeremy Goodwin (Joshua Malina), and anchors Dan Rydell (Josh Charles) and Casey McCall (Peter Krause).

In addition to awesome writing and a great ensemble cast, the Sports Night serves up the best of workplace sitcoms: a group of people working for idiosyncratic upper level management and goofing off every once in a while.  It sounds so bland, so quotidian, but it’s really a basket of sweet samosas with extra frosting.*  The balance of work-setting specific jokes and the personal lives of the characters is just right.

The episodes are fast-paced and consist of mobile characters, pivoting and tracking cameras, and multiple plot nuggets with more focused, over-arching narrative threads.  In the first episode, for instance, Dan speaks warmly about the idea of a “New York Renaissance,” which happens when a New Yorker falls in love with the city all over again; Casey gets his mojo back.  In the second, Casey wants to know why he isn’t cool and teaches Jeremy about making highlight reels;  Dan’s Esquire interview necessitates an apology that reveals something more serious than the humor would have you believe.

Sports Night does cover heavy and significant issues such as women in the locker room, ratings, interpersonal friction, racism, emergency c-sections, writer’s block, and job security.  Sometimes, you can laugh at the lighthearted portrayal of these issues, and other times the depiction does not elicit stomach-pinching glee.

Much of the verbal humor involves confusion with grammar.   For example, in the third episode, Casey says to Natalie if he can ask why the staff has to attend a party.  Natalie responds with, “Yes.”  Casey follows with, “‘Yes’ I can ask or ‘yes’ we have to go.”  Trivial and short-lived, perhaps, but all too true.   It’s just like asking someone a question, giving them a choice between two items and the person replies with only “yes” or “no.”  Also in the third episode, Dan confesses to not liking futbol and that he can’t stand being told his lack of interest is the result of inadequate comprehension of the sport.  Dan believes he gets it perfectly–“it’s a minor league bore and any reasonable person would much rather be playing it than watching it.”

The term “conversationally anal retentive” refers to Casey’s tendency of speaking in such a structured manner that it’s akin to being anal retentive.

I’m going to watch more episodes when I get home.  Click here for an audiovisual aid.  I’m sure the first image will have a profound effect on you.


I owe many instances of laughing fits just like that one to the following writers:

*Yes, I know that samosas are usually salty.

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