Your night of sports, as in ‘Sports Night,’ 10 years later


Maybe it was because the show had a laugh track. (Only for the first season).

Maybe it was the wrong perception that Josh Charles and Peter Krause tried too hard to be like Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann.

And Felicity Huffman just tried too hard.

Maybe I just didn’t give it enough of a chance. I was just in a different place then.

“Sports Night,” the Aaron Sorkin sorta-sit-com that appeared on ABC on Sept. 22, 1998, lasted for two seasons — 45 episodes — before heading into TV oblivion. ESPN “SportsCenter,” meanwhile, forged ahead with its target demo.

Sorkin had “The West Wing” up and running by then, so he was probably OK with it. But not really.

A DVD box six-disc set of the show came out in 2002 for those who missed it. But now, for those who still embrace it, the L.A.-based Shout! Factory has a 10th anniversary boxed edition (linked here) — eight discs and a 32-page book, plus commentary from Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme.. Best is a segment called “Face Off: ESPN’s SportsCenter vs. CSC’s Sports Night” where current and former “SportsCenter” anchors give their two cents.
It’s all for just $69.99.

The set is released today, so we thought we’d do a quick email Q-and-A with Josh Malina (his IMDB home link), who played associate producer Jeremy Goodwin and may have stole the series with his first appearance on the pilot episode here:

Q: Aside from “West Wing,” how often to people say they recoginize you from “Sports Night” or even “The Larry Sanders Show” or projects you’re on now?
JM: “While I am most frequently stopped by fans of TWW, SN is a close second. I always have the same reaction: If this many people remember SN this fondly a decade later, there had to have been some way to turn it into a hit. And many of Sports Night’s fans are quite young. Clearly, most Sports Night fans discovered it after its initial network run.”

Q: What do you think helped give “Sports Night” the staying power that it kept with many of its fans?
JM: “I think that SN was a half hour that focused on its characters and their developing relationships in a way that none did then and few do now. Even when events were getting a little crazy, Aaron wrote the characters so real and layered that loyal viewers felt they had a stake in the outcome of the show. SN fans still have lists of favorite moments 10 years later because the show had high emotional stakes.”

Q: Was it a series that was cancelled far too early, and for the wrong reasons?
JM: “That’s probably a question better put to others. As an actor, I couldn’t have been more out of the loop, so it’s all pure conjecture on my part. That said, I do have the sense that there was far greater potential in the show than the two-season cult favorite it turned out to be.”

Q: If Sorkin were to put “Sports Night” together now, you think he could afford the talented cast to play the roles today, considering where their careers went after that?
JM: Sadly, I’m quite confident he can still afford me. As for the other five, I’m less sure. But show me the contract for “Sports Night — The Oldster Years” and I’ll sign…”

More on the series that was:
== A review of the DVD box set from (linked here)
== A USA Today Weekend interview with Malina (linked here)
== An interview with Robert Guillaumeabout the series (linked here)

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