By Frazier Moore, AP writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Hail this TV season's other Felicity! Not the college girl with curls. Felicity all grown up. The thinking man's (and woman's) Felicity. The real-life Felicity, Felicity Huffman, who stars in ABC's "Sports Night." This Felicity plays Dana Whitaker, producer of a nightly sports show on an ESPN-like cable network. There, in the crackling mid-Manhattan biosphere where the sportscast comes together and goes on the air, Dana and her colleagues radiate passion for their jobs, each other and the roguish turn of phrase.

"Sports Night," seen Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. EST on ABC, has been warmly greeted as the season's freshest new comedy. And speaking from the inside, Felicity Huffman adds her approval: "I'm enjoying it every second. "I'm riding on Aaron's coattails. Great writer. "That's Aaron Sorkin, writer of "A Few Good Men" and "The American President." He created "Sports Night." "And also we have Tommy Schlamme," Huffman adds. "It's a really funny name, but I would take a bullet for this guy." Schlamme (rhymes with Tommy), with a number of films and "ER" to his credit, masterminded "Sports Night's" formula of kicky staging and ethereal camera work. "What can't this director do?!"

Huffman is blond and willowy, smart and a little goofy, and packs a Tommy-gun chuckle. She has won praise on the New York stage, especially in plays by David Mamet. A decade ago, she replaced Madonna on Broadway in Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow" and The New York Times saluted her "skillful performance." More from Huffman's resume? "Basically, I got fired off of the play 'Jake's Women,'" she reports. "And then I did an ABC pilot with Ed Asner that was gonna be a big deal and was called 'Thunder Alley,' and I got fired from that." (Fired from "Jake's Women," that notorious Neil Simon flop-aroo? Fired from "Thunder Alley," which expired after a spasmodic 10 months on the air? How lucky can you get!)

But how did Huffman land "Sports Night"? "During last year's pilot season all my friends - actors, writers, directors - were saying, 'You gotta read the Aaron Sorkin script.' So I started lobbying to do an audition. But then I went in and bricked." Bricked? "Screwed up the audition. "I walked out, and I was like, 'Uhhhhh, I just buh-lew it.' And there was Robert Guillaume. I went up to him and I went, 'Ohhhh, Robert, I'm not gonna be in on this. I bricked.' And he went, 'That's OK, baby.'" She is echoing his breezy style. "'I tell ya what: If I'm in it, YOU'RE in it.'" Like the man said, now he is (the former "Benson" star plays the sportscast's fatherly executive producer) and so is she.

In Huffman's hands, Dana is a hard-charging pro who's good and knows it, even as she drolly second-guesses herself. "Do you think she's scary?" Huffman asks the reporter, inadvertently setting up the sort of rapid-fire volley "Sports Night" relishes. "No, I don't." "Why don't you?" "Should I?" "No! I don't want you to!" Rounding out the splendid ensemble are Joshua Malina (who plays research analyst Jeremy), Sabrina Lloyd (as Natalie, an associate producer and Jeremy's girlfriend), along with Josh Charles and Peter Krause (the mythical sportscast's co-anchors). "We were instantly a team," Huffman says, "thanks to Tommy and Aaron. From the first read-through, they created an esprit de corps."

Huffman loves being part of a family of actors. Although "Sports Night" shoots in Los Angeles, she remains a member of the Manhattan-based Atlantic Theater Company repertory, where she met her husband, actor William H. Macy ("Fargo," "ER"). By then she already had a lot of experience with family. She grew up in Woody Creek, Colo., with six sisters and a brother. "It was so great! I'm the youngest, so my sisters broke my mother in. By the time I came along, it was like, 'What time will you be home? Oh, never mind.'"

Each Monday morning her new family comes together for the "Sports Night" table read, "and we're up on our feet by 3 o'clock. We finish shooting Friday. It's fast. "And then inevitably on Saturday morning you wake up and you go, 'Oh, THAT'S how I should have played that scene.' It's cab acting instead of cab wit." Huffman laughs. Huh? "You don't know the phrase 'cab wit'? You're in the cab going home from somewhere and you think, 'THAT'S what I wish I'd said.'" Which, of course, is something Dana Whitaker and her team would never suffer. Which is part of the magic of "Sports Night.

Thanks to for the transcription.