Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TV Shows Cancelled Too Soon Part 1- Sports Night

Hello folks!

I've decided that as my first official post, I'm going to start a little weekly column about TV shows that, in my opinion, were cancelled way too soon. I will judge these shows based on suggestions from you all, my own experiences and critical reviews. Then I will assign a letter grade. If a show I have never seen is suggested, I will take the time and energy to watch most, if not all of the episodes that aired. However, I will be sticking to shows that were cancelled after three season or less (that way I can add obvious favorites like Arrested Development and more). So without any more delay, I give you TV show number one: Sports Night.

Sports Night- ABC (1998-2000)

This was the first foray into television for Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing came in 1999). It was also a comedy. Before Sports Night, Sorkin was known for his dramas like A Few Good Men and Malice. This is a smart look into the stressful career of broadcast sports journalism. Sharp scenes showing the everyday struggles of making a TV show have great fluidity and timing. Some scenes could have easily become cliched and trite but the complex way in which most of the characters were written and the biting dialogue helped make the show fresh.

Not many shows are as perfectly cast as this one. Every actor melds with his or her character and most of them have gone on to great success in TV and film. The two anchors of Sports Night, Dan Rydell and Casey McCall are played with great ease by Josh Charles and Peter Krause. Most people will know Charles as "the other man" Will Gardner on the CBS show The Good Wife while Krause is most famous for his role as playboy screw-up Nate Fisher on Six Feet Under. Krause is currently killing it on NBC's Parenthood.

The other major character in Sports Night is Dana, played by the insanely talented Felicity Huffman, who is obviously well known for her role on the "I can't believe it hasn't been cancelled yet" Desperate Housewives. Sabrina Lloyd and The West Wing's Josh Malina round out the cast as Natalie and Jeremy, two producers of Sports Night, and Robert Guillaume plays recurring character Isaac Jaffe, the head of the sports channel that broadcasts Sports Night. Huffman was the only regular cast member to be nominated for a major acting award (Golden Globe) which is just ridiculous.

I had one major problem with the show overall. The two central female characters were, at times, given incomplete and frankly silly romantic conflicts. For example, Dana wants her romantic interest complete a ludicrous dating plan before he is allowed to be with her. And the other female character Natalie, played by Sabrina Lloyd, has surprisingly dumb arguments with her ex-boyfriend about who dumped whom first. Sports Night also featured an inconsistent laugh track in the first season that threw me out of the show. It seems the producers originally wanted the show to be a sitcom, but with Sorkin's writing, there is too much depth and wit in each joke that inserting a laugh track turns the dialogue stale.

There aren't enough good things to say about Sports Night. From the talented cast and guest characters to the patented Sorkin writing style, it could have had a really successful TV run given enough patience.

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