I've been a fan of Aaron Sorkin's work for a number of years. From A Few Good Men through the first episode of The Newsroom. I'm not sure if its considered irony or not that as a reporter I don't make enough to be able to afford HBO to watch The Newsroom, but from the one episode I did see it looked great. And although I'm not really a sports fan I decided to give Sports Night a try.
Following his stints in the theater and movies, Sports Night was Sorkin's first foray into television and while it is wonderfully written and acted, I have been taken aback at the atmosphere of the show. It is lit like a soap opera, shot like it was in front of a live studio audience, and included a cringe inducing laugh track. I'm reminded of a line from another Sorkin show Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip from Danny Trip (a character eerily similar to Sorkin himself), "No comedian you admire has ever been afraid of silence. " I refer back to the title of this entry, no show that casually uses the word Quixotic (resembling or befitting Don Quixote) should every have a laugh track. This show should have been a single camera dramedy, not that it would have necessarily saved the show for more than two seasons, but it would have at least followed the theme of the show.
I don't think I can hold Sorkin totally responsible for this. I imagine the studio and network saw Sorkin's premise as a formulaic sitcom that could pick up much of the same audience as NewsRadio or Frasier. But Sorkin's writing had so much more heart than anything else on TV at the time and the casual nature of a sports show had to have made the concept difficult to wrap your head around until you saw it.
Sports Night only had a short two season run but before it was over Sorkin's real genius was realized and picked up in the form of The West Wing. The gravity of running a country better suited the depth of Sorkin's writing and the show was a wildly popular success.
Even with the awful laugh track and terrible lighting, Sports Night was a soulful fun show to watch and a perfect display of classic Aaron Sorkin writing.