As the pilot begins, the camera pans through the control room as people call out all sorts of official television producing stuff. I suppose this is the setup to show the fast paced world of late night sports news programs. Soon, we cut to Dan and Casey at the anchor desk as they get ready to start the show. Dan is in the middle of telling Casey that he should get out more, and I'm sorry, but I just have to interject here. Ye gods, Casey's hair! I can't decide if there's just too much of it, or if it's just combed over kind of strangely. I guess that because this was just a pilot, they didn't want to take the time to properly style someone's hair. But I digress...
Soon, we cut back to the control room, and Natalie is yelling into Casey's earpiece. Casey responds strongly, and I can't help but sympathize. Is yelling into a microphone really necessary? Isaac questions Dana about Casey's mood, Dana questions Casey, and Casey responds by showing them that he is indeed in a crappy mood. This is followed by some humorous stuff which mainly shows us that Helsinki is in Finland and not in Switzerland or Sweden, the people behind Sports Night know nothing about geography, Dan's wearing shorts, Casey's getting a divorce and Dan can't do anything to help, and the national bird of Finland is the whooping swan. We have now been officially introduced to Sports Night.
As the show comes back, it's the next day and Dan and Casey are in the newsroom. They are discussing the trials and tribulations of one Jason Griscom, who has gotten himself into a spot of trouble. This side story actually manages to weave itself throughout the episode, so as to help demonstrate Casey's growing disenchantment with his job. As we move into their office, Dan is giving Casey crap about sleeping in there overnight, which I suppose is to further show Casey's personal problems. Also, Dan is having a New York renaissance. Natalie pops into the office, and when she hears about his renaissance, she responds with, "Cool!" Only, when she says it, she pronounces it like it's spelled k-e-w-l, which never ceases to annoy me.
Cut to Dana and Isaac discussing the show, which has been doing badly, due mainly to Casey. Again, we are shown that Casey's personal problems are bringing down the show's performance. This scene boils down to Isaac telling Dana to get Casey in line, or he'll have to step in, so as to prevent the network from stepping in. I just have to say that Isaac kicks ass. I wish he was my boss. Plus, I love seeing Robert Guillaume as something other than a sarcastic butler. He rocks.
The action moves into the conference room for a meeting. I really liked this scene. I get to see the whole cast together, doing their thing, but without the hectic pace of the intro scene. One thing I appreciate about this show is that it doesn't try to suggest that it just takes five main characters to run a television program, as most half-hour shows would. Plus, people actually seem to be working. Not all the time, of course, but a fair amount. Anyhoo, Natalie's gushing about the guy she wants to hire, but I think we can just move on, don't you?
We soon follow with a bit about a place kicker being cut from a team, and while I often dig Sorkin's style for humor in repetition, if I have to hear Casey say, "He can't kick," one more time, I'm going to start slamming my head into a wall.
Moving on, it turns out that the silent stranger at the end of the table is J.J. and he - meaning the network - has some concerns. He doesn't like a segment they're doing on a South American distance runner, and thinks they should spotlight a young North American runner instead. Dana's joke here that if they can find that runner, that he should be sent over to her place falls completely flat, and I'm glad that the scene just moves past it. J.J. spouts a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about demographics, which cues yet another outburst from Casey, in which we can again see his disillusionment from the show. Now, I know that this episode is trying to show how hard of a time that Casey is having, but at this point, I'm not sure if I should be annoyed with Casey or not. It's hard to feel sympathetic for a character that has spent most of the episode being either angry, or a self-righteous jerk.
After Casey storms out, the silence is broken by one of the funnier lines of the episode as Dan turns to J.J. and says, "You ever ride the subway all day long, just for the fun of it?" The timing and delivery for this line are perfect. Unfortunately, it's followed by an incredibly obtrusive laugh track burst, just in case we hadn't realized that we were indeed watching one of the funnier lines of the episode.
The following conversation between J.J. and Dan shows us a really nice picture of Dan's loyalty to Casey as his partner, which I think was especially needed after seeing Casey the way he's been acting. It reminds us that there's probably more there than we've gotten to see. After Dan walks out, Isaac kicks some ass, J.J. style. Soon J.J. leaves, and Isaac once again tells Dana to take care of things, and then leaves her alone in the room.
When we come back, we get a cute little scene in which Dana meets Jeremy, and it offers us a brief look at his character. His geeky knowledge of the weather over Buenos Aires is something that actually manages to stay true to form throughout the series. The scene ends as Dana lets him know that she's not ready for the interview yet as she goes to kick some ass herself, Casey style.
I love getting to see Dana actually take charge. So far throughout the episode, she hasn't been that strong, but the scene between her and Casey really shows her strength, as she tries to get Casey to see how he is screwing up her show. He manages to look a bit chagrined under her onslaught, but no less stubborn or set in his thoughts.
We move quickly back to Jeremy as Dana and Natalie approach to do the interview for associate producer. There's some cute interaction between Dana and Natalie, but I can't get over Malina's performance as Jeremy. It's so completely over the top, I almost feel like I'm watching a caricature of what his character is actually like. I can't help but wonder if the character was originally meant to be the comic-relief type, the clown who stumbles around, and reacts outrageously to situations. Jeremy responds to Dana's request for his thoughts on basketball by having a total meltdown, which was almost too much as it was, but then it's followed by the Laugh-Track-a-Tron (tm) as it goes into paroxysms of laughter. Eventually, Jeremy comes through and is hired, and all I can say is that I wish all my job interviews had been so short and easy.
Next we come to the scene which is easily the climactic point of the episode. Casey lets Dan know that he wants to leave the show now that he feels so disenchanted with sports. Dan responds by letting him know how he's been feeling about how Casey's been acting since the divorce. The action in this scene is intense, and the pace of the dialogue moves quickly. As Dan's anger flares, Casey grows silent under the barrage. During Dan's tirade, Kim has entered from the background and is trying to get their attention. Now, I know she has a reason for interrupting them, but the scene is so strong that I just want her to shut up. Eventually, after Dan lets Casey have it, they notice her as she tells them to come see what's happening, and we move on to what I like to think of as the "moral re-enforcement" scene.
The South African runner from earlier in the episode is winning the race. Everyone is excited and cheering away. Casey, though, has apparently been born anew, as he runs to call his son to let him know about this man's amazing performance. Okay, I understand that the point is that Casey's disillusionment has been blown away by the display of true human spirit and hope of Ntzoke Nelson, but I still feel a little put off. Can it really be so simple? I know, I know, it's just a t.v. show, but I think that a show as good as "Sports Night" can be could have done a bit better. Not to mention that I think Krause's acting in this scene is slightly overdramatic, and I couldn't help cringing just a little bit.
As everyone takes their places to start the show, we see that Casey is back in the game. He tells Danny, "You were right; I was wrong. It won't happen again." So, is he saying that Dan won't be right ever again? Or that Casey won't be wrong? Hmm...
There's a nice moment between them as they decide to do something after the show, which I think was really needed. It's nice to see the easy conversation that makes up so much of their friendship. As the show starts, Casey kicks in with the teaser, which he does in a loud and over enthused manner. We cut for a moment to Dana, who says, "He's back." Gah... if this is the happy Casey McCall, then I think I'd prefer sullen McCall, thank you very much.
We finish up with Casey doing his best at making Dana feel better, Dana telling Natalie to check the feed from Buenos Aires, Casey asking Dan about rugby, and Dan adamantly not believing that Casey has ever had anything to do with rugby. And all's well that ends well.