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Producer's Notebook: They love their jobs at 'Sports Night'

Web posted on: Wednesday, May 26, 1999 4:13:25 PM EDT

By Tracey Durning
CNN & Entertainment Weekly Producer

(CNN) -- Having been on numerous movie and television sets before, I was fully prepared for what I call "the battle" (with publicists, of course) upon arriving at the "Sports Night" set in Los Angeles last November. It's difficult to explain the frustrations of constantly being told "no, you can't be in here" or "don't go there, the talent doesn't like it." Don't these publicists realize a journalist's innate curiosity will only grow exponentially with those kinds of restrictions?

On the set of "Sports Night"

As a matter of fact, I'm sure they know it very well. I was once again armed for battle in getting the kind of access I was promised in the first place. But lo and behold, there would be no bloodshed on the "Sports Night" set.

The first day I arrived on the set, show creator and writer Aaron Sorkin extended his hand, smiled warmly and said, "We're so glad to have you here." In fact, he was glad we were there. I could tell. It takes years of dealing with disingenuous Hollywood folk to understand when you've hit on the real deal -- and this guy was for real.

He also offered firsthand assistance if we needed "anything," a promise I took him up on occasion, which ultimately cleared the way of any restrictions that may otherwise have been imposed.

The week started with a read-through of Sorkin's material. Coffee, bagels and fresh fruit were nicely laid out for the cast and it was clear from the get-go that all were truly happy to be there. It was Monday morning for God's sake -- the first day of the workweek.

I couldn't help but think, how many people do I know that show up to work on Monday morning bubbling in anticipation of what lies ahead for the rest of the week? I could tell this was going to be a fun assignment.

There is an ease on the set of "Sports Night," a camaraderie I have yet to experience in such abundance on any set. The tone, reminiscent of a theater workshop, is set in large part by Sorkin. Sorkin is like an oversized puppy, with boundless energy and a happy-go-lucky demeanor that clearly infuses both the show and the spirits of his cast members.

The collaboration this playwright and his actors have is built on friendship and respect, each side understanding the talents brought to the table by the other. Sorkin talks about his cast members like a proud father and they about him with a glint in their eye and a smile; happy to be a part of this somewhat loony ensemble he has so cleverly created.

Marvin Kitman: Fat lady hasn't sung yet for 'Sports Night'
May 5, 1999
Guy TV: Networks vying for remote control
November 17, 1998
Screenwriters finding fertile ground in TV land
October 13, 1998

  •'Sports Night'
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