[[caption-width-right:350:"Good evening everybody, from New York City, I'm Dan Rydell alongside Casey [=McCall=]. You're watching ''Sports Night'' on CSC, so stick around."]]

The single camera {{dramedy}} about an Creator/{{ESPN}}-style sportscast (see ''Series/SportsCenter'') created and (mostly) written by Creator/AaronSorkin went off the air after just two seasons on Creator/{{ABC}} from 1998 to 2000, but it remains a cult favorite and an influential example of the form.

The show's core cast consisted of Peter Krause (''Series/SixFeetUnder'', ''{{Series/Parenthood}}'') as Casey [=McCall=], Josh Charles (''Film/DeadPoetsSociety'' and ''Series/TheGoodWife'') as Dan Rydell, Felicity Huffman (''Series/DesperateHousewives'') as Dana Whittaker, Sabrina Lloyd (''Series/{{Sliders}}'') as Natalie Hurley, Joshua Malina (''Series/TheWestWing'') as Jeremy Goodwin and Robert Guillaume (''Series/{{Benson}}'', ''Series/{{Soap}}'') as Isaac Jaffee, all of whom worked at a fictitious cable sports channel patterned after ESPN. (Characters on the show often referred to real-life athletes, teams, other television channels, Broadway musicals and various pop culture references in an attempt at verisimilitude.)

Most of the 22-minute episodes featured [[StrictlyFormula a similar pattern]]:

* Workplace banter that introduces the week's major problem or theme
* Slapstick gags or more banter that fulfilled the show's half-comedy billing
* A sudden twist into the serious realm at about the halfway mark
* One of the characters (usually Dana) flying off the handle for no good reason
* Primary plot problem resolution
* If subplot is present, a comedic or sentimental subplot resolution that points up a DoubleAesop

During the first season, ''Sports Night'' employed a LaughTrack, with mixed results. Because Sorkin disliked the LaughTrack, it was gradually dialed down during the season, and disappears entirely for the second. At the beginning of season one, the LaughTrack points up the structure by cackling riotously for the first 12 minutes and then staying oddly silent throughout the latter acts.

While the structure of the episodes were similar, ''Sports Night'' was written with wit and intelligence, and presented a number of non-cliché plot problems for the audience to think about. Even cliché plot problems -- as when Jeremy dates a porn star in a HookerWithAHeartOfGold plot -- were presented with true feeling for the characters and a deft touch that never felt cloying or aged.
!!This show provided examples of:
* {{Adorkable}}: Dana, especially when trying to tell a joke or dancing a dance of joy.
* ArcWords: Only for two or three episodes at the end of the run, but "Where are we going?" probably qualifies.
* ArmorPiercingQuestion: A relatively trivial example. The coach at Casey's alma mater calls a disastrous play, and Casey spends the next week making fun of him on air for it … until Gordon asks him "What play would you have called?" and he realizes he has no idea.
* ArtisticLicenseSports: Cricket enthusiast Aaron Sorkin included a line that in a Test (International) match, one of the bowlers had achieved the remarkable feat of taking all 10 wickets in a single innings (a feat only achieved twice in history -- Jim Laker in 1956 and Anil Kumble in 1999), and compared it to a baseball pitcher throwing "three straight perfect games." Whether that comparison is valid, the professional sports commentators can't understand how the bowler could have conceded any runs while doing this (which would be, in cricketing terms, a virtually miraculous occurrence). Even with absolutely no knowledge of the rules of cricket, you'd presume they'd realise that the standards of scoring in the two games were rather different.
* AuthorCatchphrase: Titling the last episode of Season 1 "What Kind of Day Has It Been" -- among others.[[note]]Sorkin later [[IdiosyncraticEpisodeNaming reused it]] for the subsequent first season finales of ''The West Wing'' and ''Series/Studio60OnTheSunsetStrip'', the latter doubling as a series finale. It also came back as the title for the series finale of ''The Newsroom'', only it was the third season.[[/note]]
* BaitAndSwitchTyrant: Sam Donovan.
* BrickJoke: Dana's frozen turkey in "Thespis", which she's thawing out in the lighting grid. [[spoiler:It crashes onto the news desk halfway through the episode.]]
* BuffySpeak:
-->'''Dan''': "What are you, some nutty nut-girl who's nuts?"
* {{Bromance}}: In the commentary for the series finale, Aaron Sorkin says, after a particularly emotional moment between Casey and Dan: "There's a lot of love affairs on this show, not just Felicity Huffman and Peter Krause, but these two."
* CannotTellAJoke: Dana.
* DeadpanSnarker: It's Sorkin, so everyone. But especially Dan.
* DoesntLikeGuns: In "Dana Get Your Gun", we learn that Dana ''fervently'' hates guns; in fact she's a member of the Anti-Handgun Coalition. So her opinion of Sam drops a couple of pegs when he admires the musket she's inherited. Turns out ''he's'' a member of the same coalition, and there's a big difference in his mind between someone in the 20th century who buys a handgun just to be macho and redneck, and someone who made a musket in UsefulNotes/TheAmerianRevolution to fight off the British.
* DoubleStandard: Dana and Casey really like each other in the first season, but neither is ready to try and make it work. So Dana starts dating Gordon, which drives Casey crazy but everyone tells him to suck it up and deal and let her be happy. Later, Casey has a casual relationship (i.e. just sex) with [[spoiler:Sally]] and most of the characters treat it as a massive betrayal of the now engaged-to-Gordon Dana (who doesn't like this woman, mainly because she always flirts with Casey).
** There's a bit more to it than this. [[spoiler:Sally]] is constantly undermining Dana and her show and is actively after her job.
* EverybodyIsSingle:
* ExecutiveMeddling: Portrayed at several points (often as RealitySubtext). [[invoked]]
* ForgottenAnniversary: In "Thespis", Casey forgets his and Dan's first broadcast.
* FramingDevice: Of a letter home (DayInTheLife) ("Dear Louise…").
* GeekyTurnOn: Natalie tells Jeremy that when he talks "computer talk," they're having phone sex.
* TheGhost: Jeremy's sister, Louise; Casey's ex-wife; Isaac's wife; Dan's love interest's ex-husband, Steve Sisco
* HappyBirthdayToYou: One episode includes a subplot where Dan has to pay the fine for singing the song to Casey without securing the rights. In response, he asks everybody in the station what public domain song they would like for their birthday.
* HeWhoMustNotBeSeen: Luther Sachs, owner of Continental Corp and, by extension, Continental Sports Channel (CSC)
* HookerWithAHeartOfGold: "Celebrities" and "The Local Weather"
* IndyPloy: "Napoleon's Battle Plan".
-->'''Casey''': First we show up, then we see what happens.
* IronicEcho: In the episode "Mary Pat Shelby", Casey criticizes Dana's handling of the interview with Christian Patrick by saying, "You handled a big thing badly." Near the end of the episode, when Dana realizes in trying to help Natalie, she screwed things up even more, so she goes to Isaac and tells him, "I did a big thing badly." Also in that episode, Dana asks Natalie if getting an interview with Christian Patrick is something she's inclined to joke about, and Natalie responds she doesn't think Dana is inclined to joke much about anything. At the very end of the episode, Dana apologizes to Natalie for everything that's happened, and if there's anything she can do. Natalie's response: "Tell me a joke."
** From the same episode, "how much do you love me right now?". First used by Isaac then Dana about getting the interview, later Natalie says it after telling the guy who sexually assaulted her what an asshole he is and that she's going to have him arrested.
** Dana actually does these a lot (plus or minus the irony), often picking up a phrase early in the episode from one character and repeating it to several others.
* ITakeOffenseToThatLastOne:
-->'''Dana''': I don't think you're cute, I don't think you're funny, I don't think you're smart, and sometimes I don't think you're very nice.\\
'''Casey''': You don't think I'm funny?
* IvyLeagueForEveryone
** Well, only Dan (Dartmouth) and Rebecca ([=UPenn=] Wharton) actually attended a school in the Ivy League as far as we know. But they're all highly educated. Casey graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Natalie attended Northwestern and Jeremy attended Amherst.
* JerkassWithAHeartOfGold: Sam Donovan turns out to be one.
* LetsGetDangerous: Natalie, in "Small Town". She spends a night filling in for Dana as the show's main producer and its a hell of a CMOA.
* MillenniumBug: "Kafelnikov" revolves around Jeremy believing that he has triggered this and shut off power to the whole floor. [[spoiler:It turns out he incorrectly hit the "Panic" button.)]]
* PrematureEncapsulation: The episode entitled "Kafelnikov" is the episode ''before'' the one where Dan can't pronounce Yevgeny Kafelnikov's name.
* RealLifeWritesThePlot: Robert Guillaume suffered a stroke in RealLife, making acting difficult. Subsequently, an entire story arc was written involving Isaac Jaffee suffering a stroke, allowing Guillaume to stay off-camera for a while. Subsequent episodes upon Guillaume's return dealt with Jaffee's struggles to keep doing his job.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Isaac has got his employees' back.
* RevengeOfTheNerd: Bobbi Bernstein
* RightBehindMe: In "The Apology", Dan is supposed to be meeting with the CSC executives, but he's decided to make them wait.
-->'''Casey''': Go to your meeting.\\
'''Dan''': I told you, I'm making them wait.\\
'''Casey''': No, you're making them mad.\\
'''Dan''': No, I am making them anxious.\\
'''Casey''': [''Sees Isaac come into the room behind Dan''] I think you're just making them mad. I think Isaac specifically is mad.\\
'''Dan''': No, Isaac's on my team. Isaac understands me. Isaac has a highly developed sense of right and wrong and he is hip to my battle plan.\\
'''Casey''': Dan, he's standing right behind you.\\
'''Dan''': [''Turns around''] How you doing? Casey and I were just talking about your highly developed sense of right and wrong and I was just saying …\\
'''Isaac''': Go sit your sorry ass down in that meeting.\\
'''Dan''': On my way, sir.
* RomanticFalseLead: Jenny and Pixley. Gordon, as well.
* RunningGag: Danny saying that some sport or another is "The Sport of Kings", only to be reminded that the sport of kings is really horse racing.
** Jeremy also has a running gag of commenting on the fact that he is, at this moment, talking to himself in an empty room.
* SecondPlaceIsForLosers: Sports Night is always concerned about being the third-place show.
** "It's not like we're those chumps in fourth place. Bunch of ''losers''!"
* SetBehindTheScenes of ''[[ShowWithinAShow Sports Night]]''.
* ShipperOnDeck: Natalie spends a ''lot'' of time cheerleading Dana and Casey's potential romance.
* SmugSnake: J.J. the corporate executive comes off this way.
* SoccerHatingAmericans: Subverted: Dan has to talk about association football, but has absolutely no knowledge of the sport. When he challenges Natalie to name one team, Natalie and some extras list half a dozen on the Eastern Coast alone, revealing Dan as the only one in the office who doesn't follow the sport.
* SorkinRelationshipMoment
* SpitTake: Happens quite spectacularly when Dan gets writer's block and Natalie decides to cure it with shock therapy.
* StockFootage: Used as the promos for the programs that are on after Sports Night.
* SuspiciouslySpecificDenial: When Jeremy expresses concern for Casey (because of Casey's bizarre insistence that there is a fly in the studio that nobody else can see, among other things), Casey assures him that everything is fine. Casey then says, "I'm not obsessed with Dana," when Jeremy ''never even mentioned Dana.''
* TakeThat: In the series finale, [[spoiler:the new owner of CSC]] says "Anybody who can't make money off of ''Sports Night'' should get out of the money-making business." Take ''that'', ABC!
* TalkAboutThatThing
* TechnoBabble: Jeremy, trying to come up with an explanation for why his Y2K fix caused the entire floor to lose power:
-->'''Jeremy''': I think it's possible that a spike in the slave-sync signal shorted the PCI bus so the DMA controller had an IRQ conflict!
** Crossing into bad research territory, in the days before widespread internet access would make a gaffe like this noticeable (and possibly [[FiveFiveFive to get around actually having to deal with a real address]]), Dan ends a broadcast by saying:
--->'''Dan''': So, if you've got a Play of the Year, you can contact us at ''CSC slash sports night dot com''.
*** Which is easily an in-character goof (although you'd think someone would have ribbed him about it): Danny clearly means "CSC at sports night dot com", and just got "slash" and "at" mixed up. Or more likely sportsnight@csc.com, since CSC is the network and ''Sports Night'' is a show.
*** It's also possibly ''not an email address''; Dan could easily have meant csc.com/sportsnight (which would then have a contact page) and just gotten the order tangled up.
*** Or it was the Internet equivalent of a 555 phone number: something that sounded vaguely like an email address, but wouldn't cause some innocent third party to be bombarded with fan mail.
* [[ThoseTwoGuys Those Three Guys]]: Chris, Will, and Dave.
* VisitByDivorcedDad: "What Kind of Day Has It Been"
* WalkAndTalk: Seeing as this is an Creator/AaronSorkin work [[SorkinWalk this]] occurs at least OncePerEpisode.
* WillTheyOrWontThey: Dana and Casey.
** Resolved in the second season when [[spoiler:they have a great kiss and almost start dating in the first few episodes, but don't because Dana has a "plan" and Casey actually moves on by mid-season]].
* WelcomeEpisode: "Pilot", with Jeremy as the new guy.
* WritersCannotDoMath: Jeremy guesses Natalie's six-character email password, and Dana, shocked, remarks that there are five thousand possible passwords of that length; Jeremy corrects her and says that there are "fourteen thousand, two hundred and some change." While we don't know what characters are valid for passwords in their email system, even a case insensitive password of just letters and numbers would have 36[[superscript:6]], or almost 2.2 million possibilities.