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DVD Review:
Sports Night - The Complete Series
By Michael Patrick Sullivan

11/05/02


They say that the cream rises to the top. Unfortunately it sometimes takes a little too long. Sports Night was one of the best written television programs ever to air on ABC, but after a tumultuous two season run, the plug was pulled and Sports Night was no more.

While it never found enough of an audience for its continued survival on the air, the talent involved was undeniable. Sports Night’s creator, Aaron Sorkin, was the mind behind A Few Good Men and went on to create The West Wing, which has featured several Sports Night cast members and echoed many of the program’s themes and its sense of nuance. Now, Buena Vista has released to complete run of the series on Sports Night, which will no doubt please old fans and likely create some new ones.

Sports Night stars Peter Krause, Josh Charles, Felecity Huffman and Robert Guilaume as the crew of a “SportsCenter-like” overnight cable program as they deal with topics as diverse as drug use, racism, the quality of the human spirit, dating porn stars and when not to wash your hands. While formatted like a typical yuks and laughs sitcom, Sports Night owes more to trailblazers like M*A*S*H in being a hybrid of comedy and drama, hence the eventual abandoning of the laugh track midway through the series run.

The real star of Sports Night is Sorkin’s sharp dialogue and character driven plots. If you’d ever tried West Wing and enjoyed the characters, but were put off by the politics, you owe yourself Sports Night.


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Sports Night is spread across six discs and presented in 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer quality is minimal. It has an extremely sight haze that I liken to the difference between watching something in first run on a network and the degradation when it reruns on cable or in syndication. It’s no worse than that, and since every episode is set bound, any loss of clarity isn’t really missed. This is a show for the mind and less the eyes.

While presented in Dolby Digital, it’s only in 2.0, but as with the visual evaluation, this isn’t really a major factor. The show is nothing if not dialogue driven. There are no aural effects that you’ll be missing out on.

Supplementally speaking, there are none. This is extremely disappointing to hardcore Sorkin fans. This would have provided an excellent opportunity to get inside the mind of the creator and perhaps learn of the some of the on-set strife that plagued the series as the axe was beginning to fall.

Major kudos, however, go to Buena Vista on their inclusion of a “play all” feature, something that other major producers of television box sets, namely Fox, have completely dropped the ball on. This is especially handy for sets like Sports Night in which episodes run mere 22 minutes on average. While some may sit transfixed with remote in hand whenever they watch TV, I’ve found many times that I like to have programs running continuously while I work at home without the need to break concentration or get up to find the remote for hours at a time.

The episodes contain no chapter stops, except between each episode. Since the shows are fairly short, this doesn’t really seem to be a concern.


The Show: A+. With crackling dialogue and plotlines that don’t dare condescend, Sports Night is amongst the best television has to offer.

The Look: B. It’s only as good as it needs to be, but there’s room for improvement.

The Sound: B-. Dolby Digital makes it just a little better than average.

The Extras: D. The “Play All” keeps it from an outright F.

Overall: A. Sports Night is mentally invigorating, wholly entertaining, and with two full seasons for a suggested sixty bones, you get your money’s worth.

 

 
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