Thursday, October 02, 2008

So stick around

You may recall that I've promised 2 or 3 or 12 times to get around to doing retro reviews of "Sports Night." I haven't done it yet for one reason or another, most recently because I wanted to wait for this week's release of the fancy new 10th anniversary DVD boxed set, with prettier transfers and a ton of special features that put the out-of-print original set to shame.

I still don't have time to do this project anytime soon -- we either need to wait for a SAG strike (knock wood that it doesn't happen) or until the summer -- but in the meantime, you can go read Linda Holmes' eloquent summation of what made both the show and this new DVD set so great.

As this is the only show where I am solely responsible for it getting an Emmy nomination (William H. Macy for guest actor in season two -- check the comments for an explanation), I have a personal stake in writing about it eventually. I promise to do that, sooner or later.

32 comments:

Chris Littmann said...

Not to threadjack or anything, but I saw this just come across my RSS reader:
http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=45&aid=151628

Long live "What's Alan Watching?"!

On Sports Night; it's just so great. I went through and viewed 'em all again recently as wewere giving away five box sets on my site. The reactions from everyone were the same: loved it and it died to soon. Upon second watching, I decided the Cut Man bit had to be one of the funniest in the show's history.

Jefferson said...

Alan,

Since I wasn't reading your site religiously like I have been for several years now back in the days of Sports Night, care to expound on your assistance of getting Macy the nomination?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure William H. Macy is incredibly grateful. Henry Winkler? Not so much.

Pamela Jaye said...

thread jack away chris!

I, unfortunately, came to announce

SAG Negotiating board requests National board to have strike authorization

sorry for lack of verb, above

corresponding article in LA Times thinks SAG's board won't do it...

Good luck Alan - on both sides. (you could review seson 1 on St Elsewhere...)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jefferson, this happened years before the blog existed, back when Sports Night was just finishing up its run.

The Emmy nominations came out, and as I was preparing my story, I started combing through the full list to see if there was anything to make a bullet-point comment about at the end the way I usually do. I noticed Henry Winkler had been nominated for an episode of "Battery Park," a cop show sitcom that NBC had canceled after only three or four episodes.

Now, I had watched all of those episodes and didn't remember seeing Winkler, so I called up somebody at the TV Academy, who said they would look into it. Turns out, Winkler's episode had aired -- but only on the west coast on a Saturday night after live golf coverage or something, and several weeks after the Emmy eligibility period. Winkler and his people hadn't realized this, they submitted his episode, and because -- even moreso than the bigger acting categories -- the guest star nominations are largely chosen blindly by people based on name recognition, he got nominated because he was on the list.

The Academy disqualified Winkler and elevated the next highest vote-getter: William H. Macy. He lost to Bruce Willis for a "Friends" episode, so I really didn't accomplish much of anything. (He would have attended the Emmys anyway, since he was also nominated for a TV movie he did that year.) And, technically, he should have been nominated in the first place, if not for a lack of attention to detail by both Winkler's people and the Academy, but I did play my part, however tiny.

Jefferson said...

Alan,

Thanks for the story. Congrats and as you mentioned, it was well deserved. Thanks for sharing.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm sure William H. Macy is incredibly grateful. Henry Winkler? Not so much.

Winkler was actually very gracious about the whole thing. I can't find the quote at the moment, but he put out a statement in which he sounded very sheepish about the whole thing.

As for Macy, I ran into him a year or two later at a press tour event, and very briefly said I was the guy who got him that nomination. He paused for a moment, not sure exactly how to respond, then said a very confused, "Thank you?"

The whole thing was weird.

Pamela Jaye said...

a couple of years ago (this relates tangentially) the last episode of Blind Justice aired - on a Sunday night (I think) in one (or possibly even 2) markets (the one we knew of being San Francisco I believe) with the rest of the country being blacked out for either sports or some other filler (if said sports had ended)

I think I have it on a tape somewhere. I got it secondhand, from a Longstreet fan, in Colorado.
My brother, who thought the series was crap, actually liked the final episode.
It figures.
No one was nominated for anything, though.
(and your story was better)

Austin said...

I just wanted to thank you for letting me know that this new box set was released this week as I was unaware.

Just got it on the cheap at amazon for only $45!

Woohoo!

Bobman said...

Winkler being gracious and an all-around nice guy? Who woulda thunk? :)

I watched this show pretty recently and absolutely loved it, and was so annoyed that, from what I could gather, Sorkin basically just gave up on the show to do the West Wing (as opposed to it being canceled).

I love a comedy with some heart and this show had it nailed.

filmcricket said...

Great show, although watching it, as I did the first time, straight through from beginning to end is a good way to spot how many flaws there were in it as well. I still watch the first season religiously; the second, not so much, although it had its moments of greatness, too.

The look of SN was pretty much unprecedented in network comedy, although Larry Sanders had been doing it for some time on HBO (three-camera show that looks like a one-camera show, no studio audience, all the pedeconferencing).

Can't wait to get this new set. Can I hang on until Christmas, I wonder?

Andrew said...

So is the early laugh track included on this set or did they junk it entirely?

Matt said...

All the episodes are as broadcast--that means there is a laugh track on early episodes. The commentary tracks repeatedly and loudly express their distaste for the laugh track.

kat said...

Wow, I'm so glad I now have an appropriate place to vent something that has annoyed me recently. I, too, was serviced with the 10th anniversary DVD set and dug in to begin watching. (I only saw it sporadically during it's run.) At any rate, in one of the early episodes, Dan and Casey are discussing all the famous Gordons they know, playing up on Casey's apparent jealously of Dana's boyfriend. Between the two of them, they can only name Gordon Lightfoot and G. Gordon Liddy. Really? Two sportscasters can't come up with Gordon "Gordie" Howe? I don't know why, but that seriously irritated me. Along with the really vague, sometimes there, sometimes not laugh track.

But otherwise...great show. I'm enjoying playing catch up.

greebs said...

Wait...wait...WHAT 10th anniversary boxed set???? It's my birthday next week and people keep asking me what I want. And..wow. Maybe now I have an answer.

kyle said...

i very much agree with linda holmes in that a major moment from the show that i will always remember and the moment i fell in love with it was in the apology episode in isaac's office, where dan made the comment about rosa parks and isaac didn't hesitate to let him know that because he loved dan he could tell him that he was wrong in bringing up rosa parks, and things like that don't fly with him.

just a beautifully acted and written scene, and one that will always resonate in it's quiet grace. this was no grand speech or soliloquoy meant to catch the ear of emmy voters, just simple, realistic dialogue between two characters that showed a layer of emotion and nuance rarely seen.

i was wondering if others had thoughts on their favorite scene from the show?

Art Fleming said...

I think they actually tried to delete the laugh track, but it was impossible because of problems with master tapes or something.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The problem, I believe, is that it wasn't a laugh track; there was an actual studio audience for the early episodes, so I can see how it would be harder to eliminate audible laughter in the room from the master recordings.

One of the ways Sorkin and Schlamme were able to convince ABC to ditch the audience was by saying they needed studio space to build some additional sets -- and the only available space in the studio by that point was the area where the bleachers came out.

filmcricket said...

there was an actual studio audience for the early episodes

Really? If that's the case, I'm incredibly surprised. There's at least one scene in the pilot where the camera does a 360 around Dan in the bullpen; I don't remember seeing others in the early episodes, so it's possible they switched to a studio audience after they were picked up, but for the pilot it would have had to have been a laugh track.

@kat - the Gordie Howe point is mentioned in Daniel's excellent recap of "The Hungry and the Hunted," (the episode where I fell madly in love with the show. As much as I adore Danny's "Actions are immoral, opinions are not" argument in "The Apology" the reveal at the end of the ep kind of ruins it for me, being an example of one of Sorkin's common flaws).

Bellingham View said...

Alan wrote: Winkler was actually very gracious about the whole thing. I can't find the quote at the moment, but he put out a statement in which he sounded very sheepish about the whole thing. >>>

I believe it was something along the lines of the lord giveth and the lord taketh away, and that he thrilled to be recognized in any fashion.

Anonymous said...

Man! I just bought the original DVD set a few months ago. Alan, do I need to get the new one to follow your SN reviews or will I be okay?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, do I need to get the new one to follow your SN reviews or will I be okay?

Since I'll be writing about the episodes themselves, you'll be fine.

Alyson said...

filmcricket:
As much as I adore Danny's "Actions are immoral, opinions are not" argument in "The Apology" the reveal at the end of the ep kind of ruins it for me, being an example of one of Sorkin's common flaws
Funny you should mention Danny's soliloquy at the end of that episode, it's actually what hooked me on the show initially. I blame my aunt for my fascination with all things Sorkin.

Best moment of the entire series, however, comes courtesy of Peter Krause and Ted McGinley, from Sally:

Casey McCall: Don't take my friendship with Dana for granted.
Gordon: What do you mean?
Casey McCall: I know you think I'm in love with her. I know she thinks I'm in love with her. And that's all fine, so long as it's fun and games. But I want you to know Dana's important to me. I've known her a long time and I like her a lot. And there are certain lengths I'd go to to avoid seeing her get hurt in any way.
Gordon: What's on your mind, Casey?
Casey McCall: You're wearing my shirt, Gordon.

Anonymous said...

(anonymous=amysusanne...don't know why openID won't work)

Wow. I had totally forgotten about that whole Winkler/Macy thing. That brings me back to the probably quite embarassing but I refuse to through the archives days of usenet.

I watched "Eli's Coming" around 2am last night/this morning. A couple of years ago during a bad fight with the flu I watched every single episode of the series in order. I got the new set in the mail yesterday and considered doing that again (though not in a weekend like last time), but when I opened the box EC was the first one I wanted to go with. Such a good episode.

@alyson: that was definitely one of my favorite exchanges on the show. Others are more lightweight than that one, but I like most of the Casey/Gordon interaction. I love their back and forth in "Dear Louise" about Gordon losing the case. I killed him. I killed him. I killed him dead.

BF said...

Great memories. I think my favorites are still 'I told many, many people.' and 'you'll never guess where my panties are'.

Anonymous said...

Wow, alyson, what a giant, giant spoiler. Although I guess everyone reading this post has seen the series already.

Pamela Jaye said...

Wow, alyson, what a giant, giant spoiler. Although I guess everyone reading this post has seen the series already.

Not everyone. :-(
then again, perhaps it would be funnier in context.

Can't afford to netflix. If i could, I'd go for Northern Exposure.

That brings me back to the probably quite embarassing but I refuse to through the archives days of usenet.

Amy, want to fill in some of those words your brain thought but your fingers forgot to type? ;-)

Anonymous said...

amysusanne says...

>>That brings me back to the probably quite embarassing but I refuse to through the archives days of usenet. <<

That was pathetic, wasn't it?

The sad part is that the only word I actually left out was "go" which should have been between "to" and "through". Even then it probably only made sense in my head.

I just know that usenet was a minefield of crazy and self indulgent and self important and I'm confident I played all those roles. No need to revisit that because then I can pretend that I don't still do it. {g}

Rich C said...

Please tell me you're joking about the "spoilers" for a 10th anniversary DVD re-release...

Pamela Jaye said...

the first time I heard of spoilers was on an episode of Eight Is Enough (seriously). A "team" of guys were telling the Bradfords the whole plot of some movie or other. The Bradfords weren't happy about being spoiled.
So they told the other "team" that Rosebud was a sled.

Well, at least I didn't have to wonder when I finally saw Citzen Kane (and it's likely that that's the *reason* I watched the movie - probably about 10 years later)

let's hear it for syndicated reruns!

injera said...

I'm coming late to this, but... Long time reader, first time for a comment. I've just watched the first couple of episodes of Sports Night, due to the fact that you've mentioned it so warmly here. All I can say is: thank you! I'm looking forward to more, and to your retro reviews. You brought so much to The Wire, which is how I first started reading here, so your recommendations are always appreciated (and, sadly for our social life) acted upon...

J.J. said...

GORDON: Nothing you can say that'll rattle me. I'm just happy to be here. Happy to be talking to you. Happy to be having sex with Dana every night. So why don't you go write your little TV show and leave the smart remarks to those of us with post-graduate degrees.

CASEY: Okay.