Sports Night
Cliff Gardner

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Cliff Gardner

Outside, J.J. tells Sam it doesn't look like Isaac is recovering from the stroke as quickly as they hoped he would. Yeah, because Isaac is standing up for his show and his staff, it must be because of the stroke. "You guys want to exert more control over the show, right?" says Sam. "Yes," says Ray. "Then it seems like he's recovering exactly as fast as you'd hoped," says Sam. Zing! "I think our point was that he's no longer able to do the show," says J.J. Billie, emboldened by leaving Isaac's office, says, "To tell you the truth, it's not clear he was ever able to do the job. He was a bit of a sentimental choice." Wow. Never have I taken such a speedy dislike to a television character. J.J. tells Sam that Sam is someone they'd like to see at the top of the "pyramid," because he is, to use one of the phrases that is death to quality journalism, more "sales-oriented" and seems able to exert some authority. J.J. says when things settle down, they'd like him to consider making his position permanent. Sam smiles, leans in and says, "Was there anything else?" "No," says J.J. "Okay." says Sam. "Okay," says J.J. "Great," says Billie. "Good to meet you," says Ray. The Suits nod and leave, unsure how to gauge Sam, who walks back to Isaac's office.

Inside, Sam is looking out his window at the sunset skyline. "This is my favourite time of day of my favourite time of year in New York," he says. "Mine too," says Sam. Isaac asks Sam if The Suits offered him Isaac's job. Sam makes up a story about some Midwest numbers they wanted to discuss. "Don't lie to me, Sam," says Isaac, not angrily. Sam admits he was offered Isaac's job. Isaac laughs and says, "You should play ball with them, son. You shouldn't mess them around. You could have a big future at this network." Sam says he appreciates the advice. "Don't brush me off," says Isaac, and he starts talking about how he knows Sam likes his image as a gunslinger, "bopping from job to job," but Isaac thinks Sam is better than that. "Also, you're a grown man now. You don't have thirty cents in your pocket." Sam laughs. Isaac tells him to think about it. Sam asks if Isaac is going to the notes meeting. Isaac says he's going to the control room to watch the colour test. Don't worry about Isaac; he'll be very strategically placed later on, trust me. His excuse for not going to the meeting: "I feel like doing something that has something to do with television." Sam exits.

In the meeting room, The Suits are facing off against our heroes. Evil Billie says, "See, and that gets us back to the same thing were talking about with note 22," as The Suits flip through their binders and the staff just look pained. "It really all boils down to the same thing," says Ray. "The problem's in the writing," says Evil Billie. The staff make barely-suppressed whatever faces. The Suits blather on with a bunch of nonsense about how they're big fans, but not all the viewers are as smart as they are. I'm going to go out on a limb here and posit this might mirror network attempts to get Sorkin to dumb down his show? The Suits go on about other writing styles they think would be better for the show. "Keith and Kenny. Or Craig." Since I watch TSN, Sars should feel free to go off on the American sportscasters, right...now! ["Please. I live in a country that put Dennis Miller in a broadcast booth and you're asking me? But I will say this: if they mean Kilborn, that guy couldn't write a shopping list without help." -- Sars] Dan has his arms folded. Nobody else looks overly impressed either, and I have to say I sympathize, since knowing your audience is one thing, but talking down to them is another, and I reject the idea that good sportswriting can't draw on analogies beyond the typical sports fan's frame of reference (i.e. outside the sporting world). If anything, sportswriters with a grasp of more than just the box scores are better able to place sports in some sort of real-word perspective. Exhibit A: Steve Rushin's piece in the latest Sports Illustrated, about Tiger Woods winning the British Open, draws on a quote from, of all places, Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes, a great book on the obsession with the intimate details of the lives of our performers and artists.

Anyway, J.J. starts going on about how The Suits have been sending scripts and talking until they're blue in the face. Dana cuts him off and says, "They've been trying." "No, they haven't," says J.J. Dana says she'd like to continue the meeting in her office because this isn't fair to her staff. Evil Billie says, "We find that when we give the notes to you, they don't make their way to the staff." Jeremy protests that that isn't true, but Dana stops him. "Dan and Casey are professional writers. They're not waiters in a restaurant. You can't tell them what you'd like and how you'd like it prepared." Smug J.J. says, "This show is bought and paid for by my network, Dana, that is exactly what I can do." Congratulations, J.J., you made me so angry I yelled a very nasty word at my television. Dana asks again if they could please have the meeting in her office, like maybe she has a submachine gun in there or something. "And I'm telling you, we're past that!" says J.J. Dana puts her pen down. "J.J., I was hoping this meeting would go differently. I was prepared to eat whatever I had to for Isaac's sake, and I asked the senior staff to do the same, which, by the way, is the only reason why Dan, Casey, Jeremy, Elliot, Chris, Will and Dave haven't beat the crap out of you guys by now." Notice she left the women off that list, even though I would fear Natalie's wrath much more than any of those guys, including and especially Will and Jeremy. The Suits make "Well, I never!" faces at the threat of physical violence. Billie actually gasps audibly. Dana says, "I've changed my mind. At this point, you have two choices. Fire me or shut the hell up." Go, Dana! J.J. does that annoying "watch how I remain composed and don't stoop to your histrionics" thing that assholes in authority pull off so well and says Dana's attitude combined with the sagging ratings makes that a very easy choice. "Hang on," says Dan. "We can try harder." Casey nods. Dana says, "Danny." "We can," says Casey. "Nobody has to lose their job over this. We can try harder," says Dan. "Let's get to the rest of the notes," says Casey. J.J. is all squinty looking at the two of them, trying to judge if they're sincere. Then he looks at Dana and repeats, "Get to the rest of the notes." He doesn't appear to be gloating. He may be giving Dana a warning look, but I admit he could also be indicating to Dana that they should forget their heated exchange and move on. It was hard to tell. He's still an asshole, though. Evil Billie starts right in again; she's exactly like the older sister who thinks she's the boss whenever Mom isn't around. Dana says they're taking a break first. She's very calm. J.J. gets a little ticked and says they're getting through the rest of the notes. "Do what you want but for the next five minutes you'll be talking to an empty room," she says and gets up. So does the rest of the staff, and they all leave the meeting room, leaving The Suits behind.

Sam walks in and asks how things are going. J.J. says they're going fine. "I'm sorry, is it Jim Bob?" says Sam. Ha ha! "J.J.," says J.J., not impressed. "Oh. I thought it was Jim Bob. Take a walk with me, will ya?" Sam gestures, and The Suits get up and the four of them stroll through the various Sports Night sets. Sam says where they're going is a surprise. Then he starts telling a story about Philo Farnsworth, the man who invented television. The Suits look confused. Sam calls Farnsworth a visionary. "The guy I really like, though, was his brother-in-law, Cliff Gardner," says Sam. Gardner didn't know anything about science, but wanted to be a part of what Farnsworth was doing, so he taught himself to be a glass-blower so he could make the glass tubes Farnsworth would need for his television sets. By now The Suits seem more interested than perplexed. They've come to rest on the on-air set. "I've looked over the notes you've been giving over the last year or so," says Sam, "and I have to say they exhibit an almost total lack of understanding of how to get the best from talented people." "Excuse me, but --" says Billie. Sam interrupts her and reminds them that they said he seems able to exert some authority. "I assure you, it's not 'cause they like me. It's 'cause they knew, two minutes after I walked in the door, I'm someone who knows how to do something. I can help. I can make glass tubes. That's what they need," he says, as we finally get the payoff for his six-hour story about the glass-blower. He starts to walk away and says, "One last thing. The first and last decision-making authority on this show will rest with Isaac Jaffe until Isaac Jaffe says otherwise. And if you disrespect him in my presence again, I will re-dedicate the rest of my life to ruining the rest of yours." J.J. clearly has never been spoken to like this before; he's watching Sam with a mixture of anger, fear and confusion. Sam continues, "And if you think I'm just mouthing at ya, you should ask around about me. I have absolutely no conscience about these things." J.J. finally speaks: "Sam, why did you bring us out here?" "'Cause," says Sam, gesturing behind them. "There's the exit. That's it, the meeting's over." And Sam walks off, having vanquished The Suits.

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