ARE WE DONE HERE? YEAH: There are two ways to gauge a Sports Night episode: tallying the parts that make you laugh and sighing about the parts that make you mist up. The wit is always fast and furious, making Sports Night a really good show, but it's the lump-in-your-throat moments that make it a show that we still talk about as though it were on the air much more recently than 1998-2000.
I've been working my way through Disc 5 (middle of second season) lately. Here are the Moments. Feel free to rewatch your own Disc 5s and offer up alternatives.
A Girl Named Pixley: Jeremy has been nominated for an award, and spends much of the episode unsuccessfully trying to engage Isaac in a discussion of whether he should write an acceptance speech ahead of time. Later, Isaac naps on his couch while waiting for a party his wife is attending to end -- Isaac isn't at the party because of the lingering aftereffects of his stroke -- and Jeremy awakens him to discuss the award further. Isaac tells him that he didn't win. The conversation concludes:
Isaac: You know what sucks?
Jeremy: Losing an award?
Isaac: I was going to say not being able to dance with your wife.
Jeremy: I was going to say that too, sir.
"The Giants Win the Pennant . . .": Dan wants to do a feature on the 49th anniversary of the Giants coming from 13 1/2 games behind to win the 1951 pennant. He discovers that Isaac was at the game, but Isaac refuses to let Dan interview him on camera for the story. Dan pesters Isaac, who finally confesses that he missed the famous home run because he was in the men's room.
Dan: You never saw Thompson's home run.
Dan: You were at the game.
Isaac: I was washing my hands.
Dan: Never wash your hands.
Isaac: If only you'd been my mother.
Dan: You didn't see it.
Dan: You were washing your hands.
Dan: Were you bummed?
Isaac: For a while. But then you get older, and it just joins all the other things in your life that happen while you were looking the other way.
Dan: Did you see your daughter get born?
Dan: Did you see her graduate college?
Dan: Are you watching Sports Night tonight?
Dan: Then shut up.
The Cut Man Cometh: The dating plan breathes its last. Dana apologizes to Casey for putting him through the whole moronic process. She asks, eyes aglow: "If I were to ask you out tonight, would you say yes?" Casey pauses for a moment. "No."
Dana Get Your Gun: This episode has no Moment. It's good and all -- Sam finds Dana's Revolutionary War musket under her desk and bunches her panties a bit, and the guy subbing in for Dan gets yanked when he goes all stalkery towards his girlfriend on the air, but not so much with the eye-misting. Even Sorkin takes a pitch occasionally.
And the Crowd Goes Wild: Natalie and Jeremy have broken up, and Jeremy wants his stuff back. Simultaneously, the NYPD wants Sports Night's stuff -- in this case, their footage of a riot outside the Garden. Natalie is insistent that they shouldn't turn over the footage because of the First Amendment. Jeremy keeps demanding his stuff. Natalie speaks her piece on the riot footage and the First Amendment to Isaac, who unsolicitedly offers her the night off to cope with her grief over Jeremy.
Natalie: I'm not upset about this, Isaac. I'm upset because there's a principle. a bedrock principle that doesn't change, and now I'm supposed to hand over these things, I'm supposed to hand over these things that are ours.
Isaac opens his arms, and Natalie runs crying into them.
Celebrities: This is the last episode of Disc 5, and I was pretty convinced that it had no Moment. But then we get to the last scene. Jeremy, as the ex-boyfriend, isn't invited to participate in Natalie's game of Celebrity. Jeremy returns to the Sports Night studio after his encounter with Jenny the porn star. He sits silently in Dan and Casey's office while the Celebrity war rages in the newsroom. The episode ends with Jeremy listening in and quietly chiming in the answers before everyone else. "Lenny Bruce . . . Thoreau . . . Josephine Baker."
The Sweet Smell of Air: I pulled this one out of chronological order and saved it for last because it has three separate Moments. The first is a little one. Isaac has been obsessing over an article about prospects for engineering new species of birds and sealife that can survive in outer space. Dana asks Isaac why he's so caught up with the Space Squid. Isaac's response: "Because I won't live to see it."
I smiled and wrote that down as the Moment, but then everyone finds out that the exclusive interview they'd nabbed with Michael Jordan was only offered to Sports Night in the first place because Jordan's people thought that CSC would be the only network sufficiently concerned about its ratings that that it would agree to relinquish editorial control, thereby ensuring that the interview would be nothing more than an infomercial for Jordan's new cologne. Sam and Dana report this development to Isaac. Isaac says, "They thought we were desperate enough for the ratings to do it. Are we, Sam?" A pause, while Dana looks at Sam, sure that he's going to insist that they do the interview to get the ratings. Sam solemnly shakes his head no. Isaac concludes: "Then tell them Isaac Jaffe says to go to hell." Sam beams. Dana looks on in astonishment.
But then Sorkin decides to offer up riches in abundance, and there's one more Moment. Casey has to demonstrate something at his son's school, and he has no idea what to do. When he returns to the studio, everyone is sitting in rundown. Casey announces: "I'm back and I'm triumphant. I did what I do, Dan, I did what I do. I got there early, I'm standing out on the playground during recess. I'm trying to think what I can come up with at the last minute. But I can't concentrate on that because all around me, kids are playing games. There's some kickball going on over there, dodgeball over here, hopscotch in the the corner. And like a flood, like a surge, I'm suddenly filled with a sense of I-know-what-the-hell-I'm-doing. And when recess was over, we go back into the classroom." Dan interrupts: "And you called the highlights." Casey nods. "I called the highlights."
Am I a little too excited for Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip?