Netflix instant stream has granted an eternal life to long dead movies and TV shows that would have otherwise slipped quietly into the unseen void of entertainment history, remembered only by IMDB’s deep web. The latest series I dared to revive is Sports Night. Its Aaron Sorkin’s first TV show and it’s funny, it’s smart and has depth and conviction in all the same ways as his next show, The West Wing, it’s just not as good. All of the best elements of The West Wing are there, the quick back and forth banter, the walking and talking, even the characters. Dana Whitaker is C.J. Craig, Dan Rydell and Casey McCall are Josh and Sam, Jeremy Goodwin is a nerdier version of his own future Will Bailey, Natalie is Donna and Isaac is Leo. The shows share a striking number of motifs and storytelling devices, even entire plot lines. Unfortunately, unlike The West Wing, Sports Night is a show going nowhere.
Sports Night suffers from the same problem that brought down Sorkin’s other non West Wing show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; it is way too serious for its own good. Sorkin tries to squeeze very serious conversation about very serious subjects into a show about making a sports show. Well, we’ve all seen SportsCenter, and it’s a show about internet memes, pop music and top ten plays and not much more. It’s a pretty far stretch that on any given day, their entire staff would be embroiled in a crusade against drug policy or hunting. It’s like trying to get Kirstie Alley into Brooklyn Decker’s bikini, it just doesn’t fit.
Even more so, I think Sports Night was doomed because of the format. It was never going to survive as a traditional sitcom with a laugh track. Aaron Sorkin’s writing style doesn’t fit the ridged story telling mechanisms of Two and a Half Men or Home Improvement. If the show was made today in a mocumentary format, a la The Office, I think it would be extremely successful.
In the end, Sports Night’s biggest problem is that it isn’t The West Wing. It seems like The West Wing is the show Sorkin wanted to make all along, and let’s be glad he got to make that masterpiece.
Above all else, this show is more evidence to prove the already uncontested fact that Aaron Sorkin is smarter than everyone. A lot smarter. Like, an I feel bad that he has to share the same planet with the rest of us, level of smarter.
I finished reading a book in less than 24 hours yesterday. That’s a first for me. I couldn’t help it. Hearing the story of how my economic future was flushed down the toilet from the perspective of the handful of people who predicted it is exhilarating to me.
The Big Short didn’t change anything I believe about the financial meltdown, but it did reaffirm everything tenfold. My first thought is, holy shit, how isn’t anyone in jail yet? There is certainly enough evidence out there to start prosecuting people. My second thought is, how are the rating agencies possibly still in business? Seriously, what other company could fail so spectacularly at its job and stay open for business? This isn’t even the first time they’ve been found wholly incompetent.
The one bit of new perspective I did gain from the book was that the real winners in the whole situation were the people that were able to game the system in their favor. Mortgage lenders gamed the system by suckering people into complex loans they couldn’t possibly afford, then packaging them as bonds and selling them off, thus avoiding any of the risk associated with these shitty loans. The banks gamed the system by hiding the shittiest of these mortgage backed bonds, which they couldn’t otherwise sell, in derivatives so complex that they didn’t fully understand them, let alone their customers or the rating agencies. When mortgage lenders weren’t making loans fast enough to fill the investment banks’ appetite, they further gamed the system by simply building fictional financial instruments on top of these already worthless assets. The heroines of the book gamed the system by literally creating a new market that allowed them to bet against these worthless, ticking time bombs of financial disaster.
I would say that the great recession will be the defining moment of my generation, however, that would be foolish. We’ve had no less than four different defining moments in just the last decade. If anything, it looks like my generation will at least be action packed. Who knows what’s coming next? I can only hope it’s more Zefram Cochrane and less Skynet.