By Kinney Littlefield
Orange County Register

"Sports Night" Has a Way With Words

Could be smog. Could be blocked chakras. Probably too much TV. But people around here are starting to talk like "Sports Night."

Like "Sports Night"?
They are indeed starting to talk like "Sports Night."
They're really talking like "Sports Night"?
This is how they talk on "Sports Night."

"Sports Night," ABC's superb comedy-drama, prime time's gem, is big on inspired redundancy. If you're a fan, the language and speech patterns co-opt your brain after a few views. You may not hone them as finely as gifted "Sports Night" creator/writer/producer Aaron Sorkin ("The American President," "A Few Good Men") -- but you do start talking pidgin Sorkinese.

Set behind the scenes at the fictional cable sports show "Sports Night," "SN" is about co-workers who care for each other and honor each other's words and feelings.

Even when egos are hurt or on the line, `SN's" delicious dialogue is measured, considered and usually considerate. Colleagues echo each other in a way that indicates "Hey, I'm engaged, you have me" -- lesson 101 in good communication skills.

Add a big dollop of whimsy too.

To wit, on last Tuesday's episode, co-anchor Dan Rydell (Josh Charles) and assistant producer Natalie (Sabrina Lloyd) did a rat-a-tat riff about Dan's love for the station's market analyst Rebecca.

Dan: "What am I, crazy?"
Natalie: "No."
Dan: "Am I Mister Crazy Guy?"
Natalie: "No."
Dan: "I am."
Natalie: "You're not."
Dan: "I'm crazy."
Natalie: "Crazy in love?"
Dan: "No, just crazy."

This is prime-time poetry, TV haiku. It's the "SN" vibe through and through -- sincere, kind, sometimes ironic, steeped in love of syllabic sounds.

"Sports Night" is a sweet seducer. It starts when you realize that Sorkin's writing is unique. "NYPD Blue's" language can be wonderfully courtly-tough guy, especially when Gordon Clapp and Nick Turturro interact. "Law & Order" plays hot, fast, sarcastic, "Dragnet"-staccato.

But "SN's" mirror-each-other dialogue is fresh, bold -- yet delicate.

Despite its minimal laugh track, "SN" is not your typical situation-driven, or even character-driven, punny sitcom.

No, "SN" is about how people make verbal poetry together. It's a relational show about bonding, understanding -- and occasional lapses thereof.

The "SN" seduction progresses thusly: Once you're smitten with Sorkin-speak you indulge in fanatical viewing, taping and reviewing of every "SN"episode. Then you come down with a severe case of the quotes.

Then you start "SN" talking.

Of the two anchors on the show, Casey is suaver than Dan but less easy-going. At times he has an acid tongue. I like his monologue about strident evangelist Jerry Falwell, who recently attacked PBS kidshow "Teletubbies," alleging one of its make-believe characters is gay:

"I know that most people find his calm leadership to be a gentle soothing beacon at a time of great social chaos. His guidance for instance on the great purple Teletubby matter was fraught with the kind of theological sophistication that only Jerry Falwell and a cafeteria of sixth-graders could devise."

No wonder fans dote on "Sports Night." Sorkin treats us like adults. He isn't afraid to use long sentences and polysyllabic language. He makes it all work. He demands our intelligence. He doesn't want to play to snoozy, brain-dead viewers. He doesn't let us off the hook.

Thanks to for the transcription.