Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sports Night rewind: "The Hungry and the Hunted" & "Intellectual Property"

As mentioned over the weekend, I'm going to double up on the "Sports Night" reviews this week, tackling both "The Hungry and the Hunted" and "Intellectual Property." This may turn out to be a one-time thing, as I'm primarily doing it because I didn't want to waste a whole post/week on "Intellectual Property," but we'll see how my workload is going forward. But if you're trying to watch these episodes at the rate I'm writing them, maybe take in both "Mary Pat Shelby" and "The Head Coach, Dinner and the Morning Mail" before next Wednesday, just in case.

Twice the spoilers coming up just as soon as I sing you a song from the public domain...
"If you're dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you're smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you." -Isaac

"Sonvagun..." -Dana
As I mentioned last week, the Dana/Casey romance was the part of the series I was least looking forward to revisiting, and neither of these episodes did much to change my mind on that score.

There are certain kinds of stories I'm congenitally predisposed to mistrust. One is Unresolved Sexual Tension, which only in rare cases is anything more than a desperate attempt to create some buzz while delaying the inevitable. Another is a story that has characters otherwise known for their intelligence acting like complete idiots. The Dana/Casey story arc is a combination of both of those, and I spend the majority of those scenes rolling my eyes, gritting my teeth and otherwise conveying my dismay. It's often been said of "Sports Night" -- including in some of the comments for previous reviews -- that it's hard to tell sometimes whether you're watching one of the best shows ever, or one of the worst. For me, Dana/Casey is pretty much non-stop "worst."

When I did the weekend post about disliking "Intellectual Property," a couple of readers wrote that, while they also weren't crazy about the relationship overall, the fight at the end of that episode is a very good scene, and one that does an important job of framing the relationship as something more than the traditional Will They Or Won't They? nonsense. Certainly, there are good moments in that scene (I like the way that Felicity Huffman's voice breaks as Dana asks Casey to knock it off already), and the idea that Casey has been playing this game with Dana for the last 15 years does theoretically add an edge to the relationship that you don't get in a comparable storyline from, say, "Ed." But that edge, even when it's there -- and my (admittedly shaky) memory is that it wasn't there often -- isn't enough to compensate for how often I want to slap the both of them and yell, "Quit acting like 14-year-olds! The writer says you're meant for each other, so get to it, already!"

"The Hungry and the Hunted" at least has the Jeremy storyline to compensate for the Dana/Casey idiocy. I don't know that it works 100% -- Jeremy's speech about hunting feels more out of left field than Dan's monologue in "The Apology," even though we'd been given more hints about Jeremy not fitting in than we had about Dan's brother -- but Isaac's speech, quoted above, is the kind of wish fulfillment Sorkin does so well. Where "Sports Night" and "West Wing" excelled -- and where "Studio 60" ultimately failed -- was in creating these fantasy workplaces that we all wish we could join. You don't have to care as much about the infield fly rule as Jeremy, or share Josh Lyman's views on the GAO, to admire not only the passion of these people, but their high standards for their own work, and their support for each other. I don't have the temperament to ever be a manager of people, but if I did, I would put Isaac's quote on a plaque above my desk, and check it whenever I was faltering on a decision about whom to hire (or what to have for lunch, for that matter).

Dan's subplot in "Intellectual Property," on the other hand, isn't really notable for anything other than a chance to hear Yeardley Smith (aka the voice of Lisa Simpson) speak Sorkin-ese. And it's not very good Sorkin-ese, at that -- the stuff about her predecessor in the job is among the more arch, awkward-sounding dialogue he wrote for the show. Like Casey's concern about being cool in "The Apology," the whole subplot feels like Sorkin trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to prove he can write more traditional comedy, but where the Starland Vocal Band had a beautiful payoff by tying it into Dan's storyline at the end, this one goes nowhere.

Ah, well. We get to the good stuff next week with "Mary Pat Shelby" (and, possibly, its sequel).

Some other thoughts on both episodes:

• The scene where the crew debated about poetry brought back painful memories of the "Studio 60" episode where the writers all argued about Samuel Taylor Coleridge trivia.

• Where "West Wing" more or less took place in a parallel universe with its own politicians, "Sports Night" was always a mix of fictional athletes and real-world ones, as Bobby Bowden and Pete Sampras both get name-checked in "The Hungry and the Hunted," and there's a season two episode built around the show's attempt to get a Michael Jordan interview. In retrospect, would you rather they have stuck entirely to inventing their own athletes, or did the show need to invoke real names from time to time to seem vaguely realistic?

• And speaking of realism, or the lack thereof, I go back and forth on the "Hungry and the Hunted" scene where Kim and the gang school Dan on the names of all the MLS teams. On the one hand, it's kind of funny. On the other, it sacrifices credibility -- even if Dan doesn't like soccer, you would think the show-within-the-show has done enough soccer highlights that he would remember some of the names.

• Nice use of The Pretenders' "Hymn to Her" as Jeremy calls his dad to tell him about getting The Call.

• We know "Sports Night" is a third-place show on a third-place network, but I'm still not clear whom they're behind. ESPN is one, obviously, but when I made a reference to Fox Sports as the second-place network a couple of weeks ago, some readers e-mailed me to say that, back in '98, Fox's cable operations were still too regionalized, and it would have been CNN/SI ahead of CSC. But when Isaac talks ratings in "Intellectual Property," he says they took ratings equally from ESPN and Fox.

• Getting back to the fake name thing, it's amusing to see which last names Sorkin liked to recycle from project to project. In "Intellectual Property," there's a reference to a soon-to-be-fired coach named Landingham -- which, of course, will be the name of President Bartlet's trusty executive secretary.

One final thing: I've had a few complaints from readers who are watching the show for the first time, and even trying to follow along at the pace of the reviews, so let's try to be reasonably vague about what happens in upcoming episodes. (The Michael Jordan thing I consider fair game, as it's a standalone premise, and really only a jumping-off point, at that.) We can allude to things, but let's not blatantly spell out that X is going to happen to Y in episode Z.

Keeping that in mind, what did everybody else think?


Linda said...

One of the reasons I once listed Casey as one of my favorite TV characters is that I love the fact that everybody on this show could be a bona fide jackass from time to time. Not cute wrong; REALLY wrong. Really wrong and not nice, in the way that sometimes, in life, people are really wrong.

So I think the reason I like the fight with Dana at the end of "IP" is that she calls him out for something that people really are, in real life, sometimes guilty of: chain-yanking of somebody who's really into them, who they know is really into them, because they feel insecure or unhappy or whatever.

It's not really traditional UST. It's clearly been acted on and/or acknowledged, at least up to a point. That's why I love the way she says, "You did it in L.A." The way her inflection instantly conveys that there is a particular Worst Instance of chain-yanking...I've just always really admired that scene. So rather than seeing their whole thing as a stupid dance of will-they-or-blah-blah, at least at this stage, I've always seen it as a relationship that's maybe started to happen, kind of, but it sputtered and now it has trouble happening because the people involved have built up a well-earned pile of mistrust.

Jeremy's speech about hunting is extremely dumb, though. The idea that people hunt out of meanness is ignorant city-boy horsepucky.

Karen said...

This is probably incredibly petty of me, and perhaps I'm even wrong about it, but every time I hear Jeremy talk about the deer family, I cringe - in the 9 years we've lived where we do, we've had plenty of deer around our house - including some who've left their fawns in the tall grass for hours while going off elsewhere. I have never seen a father, mother and fawn together - it's always just the mother and the fawn (or fawns).

(Thanks for giving me a place to do that rant - I've wanted to for years.)

Karen said...

I hope this is appropriately vague: it's difficult to watch Dana and Casey in season 1, when I did rather like their relationship, knowing that Dana's "plan" is coming up in season 2. It's a little like watching "Sports Night" at all having seen "Studio 60." Everything is suspect in retrospect.

jcpbmg said...

"Hungry and the Hunted" is my favorite SN episode (and probably one of my favorite TV episodes period) simply due to the Isaac/Jeremy exchange at the end.

When Jeremy says "Not fitting in is how qualified people lose jobs" and Isaac replies "Yea, but a lot of the time that's how they end up working here" it epitomizes what Sorkin's shows are about and why they are so dynamic and great.

As Alan mentioned, the strength of Sorkin's shows was always in the passion and friendship of the staffers and his ability to truly "romanticize" the workplace.

filmcricket said...

"The Hungry and the Hunted" is, for me, the opposite of "The Apology": it's a "meh" episode that turns around with a great final scene, as opposed to a good episode that then piles on the sentimental crap at the end.

That's partly because I completely agree with Jeremy about sport hunting. He's not talking about people who hunt for food, he's talking about people who take armor-piercing bullets into the woods so they can mount another head on their wall. As I believe Daniel from TWoP said in his recap of this episode, "How can it be a sport if one side doesn't know it's competing?" (I do agree with Karen that the idea of a "family" of deer is pretty ridiculous, though.)

More than that, though, I just adore Isaac in that scene. He is the best boss ever. And that quote at the top of the review is a big reason why. I watched the whole series over the course of a weekend because I was writing a paper on Sorkin, but it wasn't until the climax of "THaTH" that I was hooked.

As for "Intellectual Property" I agree it's not the strongest of episodes, but I do love the fight between Dana and Casey at the end, how Dan decides to "punish" Casey with one chorus of "Frere Jacques", and the look on Isaac's face when Dan tells him the "Intellectual Property cops are crawling up [his] butt."

(Also, "intellectual property cops" reminds me of Johnny Fever's fear of "phone cops," which makes me giggle.)

rhamilton said...

I think at this point the Casey/Dana relationship is a mixed bag - there are some great emotional beats in that argument, but there are others that are mostly just Sorkinese in the rhythm of an argument. I still think there's a certain beauty to it, and I could listen to those characters use those speech patterns at each other almost every day, but they definitely do dip below their own intelligence levels at points.

In general I don't have the same problem with unresolved sexual tension, though. Getting angry about it feels to me kind of like getting angry about the characters always walking in the same 5 or 6 lines around the studio. It's the structure of the show. What's more important is what kind of writing gets built on top of it.

I think it's fine that Jeremy has an ignorant city-boy speech. Not everyone has to want to shoot a deer. A bunch of my uncles and cousins hunt, and I've eaten venison while the body it came from was still hanging from a tree outside, but I'd probably pass out if someone made me watch them shoot one, too.

This is a big apologist post, cause I liked the poetry thing too. I'm willing to buy it cause a bunch of people run across that poem in high school english, and also "actually it's blown spray and flung spume, but I like your way better" is really funny.

Mike C said...

One of the things I really appreciate about the Dana/Casey fight is that there a couple of really funny comments thrown in the middle of the tension. Casey's two lamp-related remarks ("You must have one well-lit apartment" and something about sending Dana into a "lamp buying frenzy") never fail to crack me up even as he's acting like a jerk. It's a nice instance of the show straddling the comedy/drama line so well.

Speaking of Casey being funny, I've always loved his comment in THATH about the party organizers' concern that they'll accidentally show up 2000 years before birth of Christ.

And you can't go wrong with Springsteen lyric episode titles.

Mike said...

Hey Alan,

Did you like this show? Your reviews have seemed way more negative than positive thus far. Just sayin'.

TL said...

Is this Springsteen reference day at WAW?

Alyson said...

Back when I first started watching Sports Night, I thought to myself "I want to work for Isaac Jaffee." And then I started working at what was at the time, and I REALLY wanted to work for Isaac Jaffee. Ten years later, I still want to work for Isaac Jaffee. I think that says a lot about Robert Guillaume's portrayal of the character more than anything else.

The real-world sports references don't bother me when they're done right, but there are some really egregious errors that always make me angry. The two best examples I can come up with are in Thespis, when Dan mentions an upcoming Carolina-Duke game at Cameron; and pretty much the entire plot of Small Town.

Rachel said...

I think you've hit the nail exactly on the head, Alan - the Casey/Dana argument here sets up the Casey/Dana dynamic to be more than usual UST, but it never goes there again. Both of them say that Casey's only pretending to like her multiple times, but none of them have the "Casey uses Dana as a fallback" angle, which is really more interesting -- and mean.

I believe Sorkin follows the Whedon rule of romance -- "Love makes you do the wacky" -- a little too literally.

Not having watched the last third of Studio 60 has apparently kept me in a much better mood about Sports Night than others, so I' going to keep it that way.

Mr. Guilt said...

The real-world sports allusions don't bug me, especially given that my alma mater, Miami University, either gets named checked or has a clip running on one of the monitors in practically every episode. However, no cycling is mentioned.

One thing that Sorkin does, better in "The West Wing" than "Sports Night", is play the long game. There always seemed to be episodes where not much obvious happened, and were quasi-stand-alone, and weren't full of awesome, but he got the pieces to where they need to be on the board. I see the Dana/Casey relationship, at this point, as setting up a conflict latter in the season.

Casey is a dick in relationships, but he seems to be an OK guy outside of it, and gets all the good slapstick as time goes on.

Seriously: two episodes a week, or plan to continue this project past summer, please. There is so much to discuss!

Linda said...

"I think it's fine that Jeremy has an ignorant city-boy speech. Not everyone has to want to shoot a deer."

Of course not. I didn't say that. I wouldn't want to shoot a deer either.

But Jeremy didn't say, "I wouldn't want to do it." Jeremy said, "Shooting a deer is mean, because the deer is just like a person in that it has a family that will miss it." That has nothing to do with whether it's sport or food. If that's your standard, then you shouldn't shoot a deer for any reason, nor should you eat a fish or a chicken.

All I can tell you is that for the ten or so years I lived in Minnesota, I knew many people who hunted. And all of them respected the animals, respected the process, ate what they killed, and hated -- WAY more than urban non-hunters ever could -- the rare unethical jackholes who hunted incompetently or wastefully and/or made animals suffer. (Hunters and fishermen were also, by a large margin, the best friends that forests, rivers, and other natural resources had out there.)

Don't get me wrong -- Sorkin's writing there isn't the sin of a lifetime; it's just a guy from New York writing a blustery speech about something that, in my opinion, he fairly obviously doesn't know anything about.

Mark S said...

The Casey/Dana romance was the worst part of Sports Night. The "plan" in season 2 (which was completely ripped off from a Designing Women episode) was one of the main reasons why I can't watch those episodes.

A Nonny Mouse said...

Isn't Jeremy's argument more along the lines that it's mean because you have to ignore your empathy with the deer to do it, not because it is, of and by itself, a particularly evil act? Like the fact that in reality, the kid pulling the wings off of flies isn't actually doing any real harm, but I still worry about how he's going to turn out, because what he's doing is mean.

Brandy said...

I did rewatch IP and I have to say that while it is probably one of the worst episodes, it also has the line I probably quote the most, "It took two people to write that song?" Which I said after I sang happy birthday to my brother's voice mail on Saturday. It will never not crack me up.

filmcricket said...

I don't want to turn this thread into a referendum on hunting, but I disagree with Linda on what Jeremy's thinking is. He's not out with people who hunt every day for food, he's out with the host of a hunting show and a celebrity guest. They're there with a camera and crew and their sole purpose, so far as we know, is to film an animal being shot.

That's why he says "What we did wasn't food and it wasn't shelter and it sure wasn't sports. It was just mean." And he very specifically says that he's not equating animals and people: "I know these are animals, and they don't play bridge or go to the prom, but you can't tell me that the little one didn't know who his mother was."

Now, I have no idea what happens to the deer after that. Maybe the venison gets given away to hungry orphans, maybe the host takes it home and has a feast. And Sorkin doesn't tell us, which is stacking the deck in Jeremy's favour, for sure. But I don't think it's fair to say that Jeremy is issuing a blanket condemnation of all hunters.

medrawt said...

Something to watch out for: Sorkin recycles not only last names but curious little bits of dialogue! There's a bunch of examples in common between Sports Night and The West Wing's first few seasons, but here are the two I can recall off the top of my head:

(1) Mary Louise Parker says of herself, and someone says of Brenda Strong, "I have/she has legs that go all the way down to the floor."

(2) Somebody on Sports Night speaks of being in the tall grass, and possible in the weeds, to refer to being lost; in whichever episode of West Wing that opens with the basketball game (I think), Bartlet tells Toby that without him, he'd be "in the tall grass, I'd be in the weeds." And then a couple of years later Mark Feuerstein gets the Evil Republican Congressman to back off of Leo's drunken relapse by threatening him with the line "I'll be waiting for you in the tall grass," putting a different spin on a pair of words Sorkin apparently liked to use together.

I mean, I give the guy a break for, what, writing 80 hours of television in three years while out of his mind on drugs; they just caught my ear because I thought they were unusual phrases to begin with (at least to my ear), and then realized that Sorkin sort of has his own linguistic cliches.

Jeff said...

Not sure if it's kosher to post this, but whenever a conversation turns to Sports Night and The West Wing, I always point people to this site for all the reused names/phrases/plotlines and other similarities:
(I don't have anything to do with that site, I just find it very helpful)

Other than not having anything to say about IP or THaTH, I'm happy to be reliving these episodes here on this blog. Thank you very much.

Raychel :) said...

Alberto Fedrigotti!

I know he was a one off character in West Wing and Sports Night, but I'm not sure if the name was used in any other Sorkin project. I'm a huge tennis fan, and every time a match goes longer than planned, I always say "This guy just won't die! Doesn't he know I work in television!" Then my husband rolls his eyes :)

Thanks for the recaps, Alan. One of my favorite quotes of all time is the one you posted of Isaac Jaffe's (which, I think Leo in a West Wing episode also said). No disrespect to the late John Spencer, but Robert Guillame pulled it off just a little bit better.


Eldritch said...

[Jeremy's] not talking about people who hunt for food, [but] ... about people who take armor-piercing bullets into the woods ....

I liked his speech, because, it seemed like a nice summary, puncturing many of the so-called justifications you hear.

I believe hunting is a survival behavior which was programmed into our genes back during our caveman days. Seen that way, it serves a primal need. I'm sure we city dwelling men sublimate that need into other things.

What bugs me is the self serving retcon arguments you hear hunters use to justify it.

I'm from the school that tends to believe it's not a "sport" unless they're shooting back. It can't be when one side is so unfairly advantaged. I just wish people were more up front about it.

In documentaries I've seen about the military, the Marines or soldiers claim what they are about is honor. It's not. It's about killing. There's honor defending your country. If "Band of Brothers" teaches us anything, it's that when good men are required to do terrible things for good reasons, it's understandable they may need a crutch to help them deal with their deeds.

I'm just not comfortable applying that kind of psychological balm on those who take high powered rifles to stalk rabbits and ducks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing this Alan I probably would of never went back and watched this.

My first time viewing the series after watching The West Wing(1-4 and season 7) and Studio 60. My overall feeling is the show is excellent and in a perfect tv world West Wing would of aired and Sports Night would of come along instead of S60. I was really wondering whether to buy the dvds after I read your first review and the audience noise, but it did not really bother me. The show is funny and the concept is great.

My only 2 complaints are that the 20-22 minute running time hurts the show as they seem in some of the episodes to have to change the pace at the last minute to wrap up the show. While I dont have as much of a problem with the Casey/Dana stuff as you Alan, there have been some moments where the show got too sappy.

I think a mixture of fake and real athletes was the right call.

And would someone who watched the show when it originally aired be kind enough to let me know did the show have low ratings or was it Sorkin focusing on West Wing that got the show cancelled?

Linda said...

I agree with those who say we're straying into a general referendum on hunting, which is not Alan's bailiwick and is not really fair. I'll just say that I stand by my personal opinion that Jeremy's speech in the show is poorly written and comes off like facile grad-student moralizing. Which, as I said, is a minor screenwriting sin in what I consider a pretty good episode.

sc said...

I'm a newbie to Sportsnight, but bought the DVD's knowing Alan was going to review this summer. When watching the Dana/Casey interaction brought back strong memories of the Mathew Perry/female lead (can't remember her name) character from studio 60...and I did not like either coupling.

Mapeel said...

Does any real sports show cover hunting? The whole thing of Jeremy getting the call would have been funnier if it was built around lacrosse. Alan, I love that you pulled out "sunovagun." I'm not a Felicity Hoffman fan, but that was a nice moment.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy's reaction to the hunting trip and his speech may be "immature" but folks, he was feeding the poor dumb animal a Twinkie. Sorkin's point was more to the distorting power of television to "tell a story" than the fact that sometimes a hunter comes home empty handed. For Jeremy to then unload this anti-hunting screed makes perfect sense, he is pissed and very unhappy with himself for being a part of this distortion of reality.


Nicole said...

I have to agree with Linda on this one. While I agree with the substance of what Jeremy said, the speech itself felt like it was written by someone who has had no contact with hunters except through hunting shows. It made me want to roll my eyes as opposed to start up an anti-hunting revolution.

Anonymous said...

I'll just say that I stand by my personal opinion that Jeremy's speech in the show is poorly written and comes off like facile grad-student moralizing.
That's the reason it kind of works for me - Jeremy is exactly the type of person who would do facile grad-student moralizing.

It's too long. But it's not out of character.

Rick said...

Yes, Jeremy's dialogue was obviously written by someone who only finds food at the grocery store. Still, it goes back to the fantasy workplace: even though I completely disagree, I still admire his passion, and the fact that he speaks up at all.

Alan mentioned 'rare cases' of necessary, even enjoyable Unresolved Sexual Tension. What are the shows with good UST? (anyone?)

Eric said...

Good UST? Well, this being What's Alan Watching, I have to say "Chuck." I'm also partial to The Doctor and Rose (in fact don't like that it's been resolved.)

And to clarify something from upstream, the problem in Thespis with the Duke-Carolina game in Cameron, is that the episode takes place specifically in November, when the ACC season hasn't started yet. Duke-Carolina is always the last game of both halves of the ACC season, so it never takes place until February at the earliest. I believe the order of the home-and-away alternates each year. Yes, it's always bugged me too.

Eric J.
Trinity '95

Alyson said...

When watching the Dana/Casey interaction brought back strong memories of the Mathew Perry/female lead (can't remember her name) character from studio 60...and I did not like either coupling.

sc, where the Matt/Harriet relationship pales in comparison to Dana/Casey is the fact that Dana and Casey have actual chemistry (both as actors and characters), whereas Harriet and Matt had none (I think that's more on Sarah Paulson than anything else). Dana and Casey are an equally bad match as Dana/Gordon and Casey/Lisa, just in a totally different way. It becomes pretty painful later on to see the ways in which Dana sabotages herself and Casey really does jerk her along.

Rick said...

I'm not a big enough Sorkin-ite to know this for sure, but I believe West Wing also used the occasional real politician's name, and S60 used loads of actual entertainers (both in name and in person)

Jesse Jackson said...

I use the "If you are dumb" quote all the time. In fact I quoted it this week when I was interviewing two people for a supervisor job and they had asked me what kind of Manager I was. I gave the quote and told them that it is one of my core beliefs.

jcpbmg said...

Rick- TWW never used real politician names as the show was supposed to exist in a fictional political universe (even though pictures of Clinton could be seen in the background of the west wing offices).

However, TWW did use both real and fictional entertainer names, including Jay Leno, James Taylor, and oddly enough Matt Perry (who of course later went on to play a character on the show).

flem snopes said...

I was a huge fan of Sports Night when it began but this episode and that Jeremy speech turned me off completely.

Admittedly, I'm a hunter, but the idea of a little nuclear family of deer, Dad, Mom, and the Little One cavorting happily at the stream was beyond absurd.

I understand people are opposed to hunting but I don't need to be bludgeoned with bathos in an anti-hunting rant to get the point.

It was pure twaddle. A skilled writer could have made the point with art rather than that ham-fisted hyperbole.

Whenever I see Josh Malina in anything I remember that speech. I guess it left an impression although probably not the one the writer intended.

Anna said...

A skilled writer could have made the point with art rather than that ham-fisted hyperbole.

Like in the "A-Hunting We Will Go" episode of Northern Exposure. Whenever I think about hunting, I always think of Joel sitting in the dark with sad eyes, saying, "The killing was the best part. It was the dying I couldn't take."

I vote for a Northern Exposure rewind in the future. What a brilliant, brilliant show.

But your reviews are reminding me that I should finish Sports Night. I think I only got up to "Smoky."

Isaac Lin said...

I think it was a good move to use real athlete names on occasion, as this lets the audience automatically fill in all the characteristics and personality of the person. Not to give away too much, but the episode involving Michael Jordan is an excellent example: it would be too hard to build up a character in a half hour that would be, in our minds, the equivalent of Jordan.

Nevada Smith said...

I was just watching Nickelodeon with my son and Joshua Molina was on an episode of ICarly, some tween sitcom with the little sister from the previous Nick tween sitcom Drake and Josh. Hopefully Molina has a kid and just wanted to be on because otherwise it would be sad.

flem snopes said...

"Like in the "A-Hunting We Will Go" episode of Northern Exposure. Whenever I think about hunting, I always think of Joel sitting in the dark with sad eyes, saying, 'The killing was the best part. It was the dying I couldn't take.'

Right on, Anna. I don't remember this episode but that's a great line.

I'm live (and hunt) in Alaska and one of my favorite sayings is, "The fun of hunting ends when you pull the trigger."

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that one of the themes of season one is the bad things men do to women (there are plenty of other instances yet to come) which is why that emotion in Dana's voice is so important.

Of course, I suppose the first season is also about the ways in which women encourage such behavior. For instance, I've never liked that moment in the pilot where Casey kisses Dana. After the crap he's put them all through for weeks, he says a few words and kisses her and she gets all dewy-eyed. He, of course, comes across as the gallant white knight.

Is the sacrifice of the female deer symbolic -- a sign of things to come? "Hymn to Her" indeed.

Or is it just Sorkin who treats women badly?

Hannah Lee said...

Thanks again for the rewatch, Alan. On rewatch, both episodes moved me again, to smile & laugh & cry too.

The first, because of Jeremy's arc. I identified with this earnest smart hardworking character who desperately wanted to fit in, & held back his real feelings to try to fit into a workplace he loved, after failing to fit in everyplace else. Sure, Jeremy's argument is a bit over the top, very Sorkin-soapbox-y. But that's beside the point. What matters is that this awkward character comes face to face with Isaac Jaffe, who tells him: "You're worth something. I know it & everyone here knows it. The people you worked with before?: they were idiots because they didn't recognize how special & valuable you are. Now, all you have to do is step up, because we like you & trust you, & think you really fit in here." Who wouldn't want to hear their boss tell them that? RG really sells that scene. It's not sappy, it's business. But at the same time, it's all heart. Which, at the end of the day, is what Sorkin & this show & this cast does best. All heart.

Intellectual Property, because of the Dana/Casey argument. I agree with those who say this episode sets the stage/back-story for their relationship; it really drew me in at the time. This was the first time I'd seen a TV show that dealt with that awkward "fall back/jerking someone around" relationship issue. Not actually having a real thing, or playing on someone to be mean, but someone just leaning on someone else while they were struggling with the main relationship in their life. I'd seen it in real life enough times, & in real life, the people involved were so emotionally vested in it that they couldn't call it out. So to see it called out in Sports Night even in a ridiculous way, was kind of liberating.

I could imagine 2 college friends with chemistry, both involved with other people. & I could imagine at least one of them(Casey) thought he fit with someone else (Lisa) when he was younger. And I could imagine the other (Dana) maybe thought there was something there with Casey, but didn't go after it because he was with Lisa. So, as C & L grew apart, they could see how much they had in common with someone who was right in front of them the whole time. For Dana, she saw someone interesting who was off limits. & for C, he saw woman who responded when he paid attention (even when he shouldn't). & when he hit rough patches in his marriage, he would cross a line, emotionally, reaching out to D, & she maybe filled an emotional void for him even if he wasn't officially cheating. But he was hesitant (rightfully so) & she was resentful (rightfully so).

Normally, those types of relationships would just peter out (or explode an a destructive short-lived affair.)But when we meet them, these two have worked together without ever crossing a line (we find out later they've never kissed before.) so we know they haven't had a full blown affair in the past.(Emotional affair? maybe. Flirting? Sure. But beyond that? Nothing. )

They're both in a job together, that they both love, neither is going anywhere. Long hours, passion for their jobs, social isolation (because of the long hours), undeniable mutual attraction….it's only a matter of time before something surfaces. Unfortunately, it surfaces at a time when Dana's in a new relationship & supposedly moved on.

It's interesting to note their whole argument would have never happened if, when Casey called out to Dana "Have a good weekend.", she answered with the normal "Thanks, you too." instead of saying "I will". So, the whole argument was all Dana's fault :-)

Hannah Lee said...

My last post was probably long enough, but I've got a couple other general comments:

There's been a lot of criticism about the hunting details in Sports Night. (and yes, Sorkin's idea of a family of deer was lame) But, as a birder (non-hunting, since I've got grocery stores and thank God, wonderful local farmers and a local CSA), I'll pick on something else. I've been birding in the northeastern US since I was 10, but I've never once have heard of something called New England Blue Mallard. There's Mallard in New England, and yes they have a distinctive blue patch, I've never seen them referred to that way.

I love that Dan raises his hand to speak in rundown meetings (just like in the pilot)

In the Hungry & the Hunted, if you look carefully, you can see the cameras in Dan & Casey's office during the pre-cotillion scene. While normally I can imagine acting being an easy job, when I see those cameras in the actors' faces, it makes me respect how much skill & concentration goes into their jobs. I could never do it without being distracted or cracking up.

Anonymous at 1:05 asked: Would someone who watched the show when it originally aired be kind enough to let me know did the show have low ratings or was it Sorkin focusing on West Wing that got the show cancelled?

I watched the show faithfully when it originally aired (Alas, I was not a Nielsen family member). The show had low-moderate ratings S1, but great critical support. During S2 it got bounced around the schedule mercilessly, and pulled during sweeps, so it disappeared for 3-4 weeks at a time. I remember looking for it, and had new people ready to turn into it (Tuesday at 9:30 I think) only to find it gone, or replaced by Dharma or Who Wants to be a Millionare. (That was the time ABC went to airing Millionaire many nights, like NBC and Leno this year) IMHO, it could have grown an audience like Cheers, Seinfeld, M*A*S*H (which all took some time to build their audiences) in its 2nd year but didn't have support from ABC. After season 2, there was some talk that HBO would pick it up, but they wanted Sorkin to give up West Wing to focus on it, and that never worked out. Had ABC ordered a 3rd season, Sorkin was already in, and that wouldn't have been an issue.

jcpbmg said...

Hannah Lee-- I actually think that list scene with Jeremy/Isaac is a little sappy, but in a good way. As someone who can totally relate to Jeremy in that moment this is the scene that sold me on the show (and regardless of how many times I watch it, I still tear up a little bit).

I put up with all of the ridiculous Dana/Casey UST and "Dana's Dating Rules" just for the relationships all of the characters had with Isaac (and each other, just not sexually related). Because let's face it, bosses like Isaac don't exist, and in the real world after Jeremy would have been ultimately passed over for a promotion or fired (because let's face it, Malina is quite over-the-top annoying in most of the early episodes, and this still is corporate america).

I too find the hunting spiel annoying, however I overlook/ignore it simply for the strength of the later half of the scene

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okey-doke. I took yesterday off to go see some Shakespeare, so I want to make this clear now: Like Linda said, this is not the venue to get into a debate about the merits of hunting. For the most part, you guys have played nicely and tried to confine it to discussing whether or not Jeremy's speech works as a speech, and I want to keep it that way, or I may have to add a No Hunting/Guns Talk to the No Politics rule.

Alyssa said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review and it brought me back to the million times I've seen these episodes. Has it really been almost 11 years? I have to say that Intellectual Property is one of my favorite episodes and it surprised me to hear someone (who cares enough to blog about it) write so much criticism. This episode for me has some of the funniest and most memorable lines, though I guess I can see that, if Dana and Casey annoy you, it would be hard to watch. When it comes down to it, there are some Sorkin moments that are so beautifully sentimental that you get swept up by them and there are others where the saccharin almost hurts. Sometimes it is painful to see a scene that doesn't work (especially during repeat viewings) but I tend to forgive because when Sorkin scored, it was out of the park. (Seriously, that sports metaphor came out of nowhere) :)

Theresa said...

I have always appreciated "Intellectual Property" since, because of it, I will never be able to forget who wrote "Happy Birthday". The Casey/Dana fight is a good one, but my favorite dramatic moment on the show comes from a different fight of theirs. Felicity Huffman is awesome. Peter Krause is pretty good, too, but he has this tendency to look like he's on the verge of smiling whenever he delivers a line he knows is supposed to be funny and it kind of irks me.

I fully support the two-a-week schedule! However, I will understand if you're unable to keep it up, Alan.

J.J. said...

I always liked the blend of real athletes and fake athletes.

Put it this way: if they only mentioned real athletes, I think ABC/ESPN would have pressured them to only have the characters talking about sports figures in a good light (except for rare OJ/Spreewell incidents). Because obviously ABC/ESPN wasn't going to risk hurting their access to anyone in the sports world because somebody in the writing room of a primetime sitcom wrote a throwaway line where Casey or Dan report a bad, fictional story about a real sports figure or team.

And if they only mentioned fake athletes, it would make the show sound foreign to us when they never mention familiar names. Especially in episodes like the one where they discuss candidates for Best Athlete Of The Century or whatever.

It's like in West Wing, how that building full of sorta dorky Political Science majors were constantly referencing real political figures and stories and lessons. It makes them more believable as characters who are supposed to be smart and weirdly passionate about the field they've gone into.

Mike said...

My favorite real-life athlete moment doesn't come until late in season 2: You know who is a big honking you know what.

Bunting said...

"Or is it just Sorkin who treats women badly?"

I think he has a difficult time writing a woman who is competent in both her professional and personal lives. The Dana character has historically bugged me because the flightiness Sorkin would build into her in certain episodes seemed to have no organic basis, and once I watched the series run of TWW on Bravo, I recognized it immediately again in CJ (and Ainsley, and Abbie...I could go on). It sometimes seems like he's punishing some woman in his past by making his female characters occasionally-insufferable dipshits.

Then again, he kind of did that to Sam Seaborn, so I don't know that he's a sexist in this way; I doubt that it's conscious, regardless. I *do* think that *not* turning, say, the Mary McCormack character into a dithering twonk over Josh Molina's Will never occurred to him, and to my mind that's the issue -- that the audience doesn't necessarily want to see that more than once, much less spun out ad infinitum in every project he does.

I wish, on SN, that he'd kept it about Casey inadvertently yanking Dana's chain every few years because he could, but it quickly went to this whackadoodle "actual humans don't behave this way" place that I couldn't stomach. If it weren't for Guillaume, I'd probably have given up on the thing.

lap said...

I just wanted to throw in here that I like the hunting speech mostly because it does what it supposed to do, it tells a lot about who Jeremy is, and more importantly even, how willing, yet unable he might be to compromise that in order to do a job he loves. The fact that Isaac's response to it also gives us so much detail and nuance to who Isaac is, and that it's so wonderful is just a bonus.