By Dalton Ross
November 08, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
Sports Night: ABC Archive

It was creator Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece. A behind-the-scenes gander at a pressure cooker of a workplace. A beloved boss with a delicate medical condition. Biting social and political commentary that tackled the religious right, the Confederate flag, and the legalization of marijuana. ”The West Wing”? Think again.

”Sports Night” was unusual in many ways. First off, it was about a sports show, but was not geared toward sports fans. It also bucked sitcom convention by providing just as much dramatic, serialized tension as it did funnies. Josh Charles, Felicity Huffman, and ”Six Feet Under”’s Peter Krause headlined a magnificent cast made even more magnificent by Robert Guillaume, who delivers powerful performances both before and after his real-life stroke.

Yes, all the characters are Sorkinized to a degree (everybody is quirky and has repetitive conversations in rat-a-tat rhythms while walking briskly through office corridors), but back in 1998 that approach was fresh, fun, and different. Looking back at the two seasons on Sports Night: The Complete Series — and seeing some of the play-it-safe comedies on the air today — it still is.

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