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'Sports Night' nostalgia recap: Natalie and the very bad day

Season 1 | Episode 6 | “The Head Coach, Dinner and the Morning Mail” | Aired Oct 27, 1998

In part two of Sports Night‘s Christian Patrick story (here’s part one), Natalie really just wants to be yelled at. Not so much with the hate mail and the death threats, but a little constructive criticism would be nice. Jeremy, meanwhile, doesn’t want anyone yelling at Natalie, and he’s going to go off the deep end a little to prove it. True love is staying up all night to decipher your crush’s email password.

But first, Dan is freezing and has several complaints, including one about how Casey is being too hard on a certain college football head coach, including the use of Casio keyboard sound effects. Casey has several reasons why he’s not going to lighten up, and points out Dan’s two-week crusade against Lattrell Sprewell. Because losing to Miami is totally the same thing as a basketball player choking his own coach.

While Natalie struggles with her job after having pressed charges against Christian Patrick, Jeremy spent all night trying to get into her email so he can intercept any incorrectly spelled hate mail. Apparently there are some 14,200 six-letter words. Dana tells everyone else to watch anything they get from Natalie, and Casey tells Dana that he doesn’t care about her dinner with Gordon or whether or not she sleeps with him afterward. “Kim, make a note,” he says promptly, “I need to ruin Dana’s dinner with Gordon.”

Jeremy is informed that Natalie has been throwing herself at him since, oh, he got this job, and the best thing he can do for her while she’s in the public eye is absolutely nothing. She needs a quiet dinner in a safe place with someone she likes, but only after he takes a nap because he’s getting a little scary. He decides to do the exact opposite, writing software in order to find the perfect restaurant for said dinner. Dan is forced to grab him by the shoulders and talk some sense into him, and suggests that the best thing he can do is make it someplace that he likes. Aw, it’s Good Guy Dan to the rescue.

Casey and Gordon have another awkward moment when Dana brings her boyfriend through the studio just before showtime. You’d think Casey would be happy that Gordon agrees with him on the head-coach situation, but when Casey tries to correct Gordon on how his play-calling wouldn’t have worked either, he realizes that he’s been too hard on the guy and should take his partner’s advice to back off. No matter how cool the “crash and burn” sound is.

Dan is forced to ad-lib a segment with a reference to Tony Orlando (who is actually of Greek heritage, if you were wondering). Adds Casey, “It’s a holiday weekend, so if you’re driving out to the stadium tomorrow please, please remember to take your car.” If this all sounds bizarre, it’s because the guys are covering for a segment that Natalie should have had covered. This is the last straw for Natalie, who storms into the studio saying that she wants to be yelled at because she doesn’t feel like her job is still important.

But when she runs off, everyone finds Jeremy passed out on the newsroom floor, where he had set up a candlelight dinner for the two of them. She confronts him about it, and he tells her that he just wanted to do something because he likes her. Jeremy winds up falling asleep in Natalie’s lap, while Dana kicks everyone else out—but not before giving her senior associate producer the scolding that she asked for. No one has ever been so pleased to be chastised.

“The Head Coach, Dinner and the Morning Mail” is smart to follow up on the bombshell of the previous episode, because it would have seemed strange and a little bit insensitive to sweep the injury of one of Sports Night‘s main characters under the rug. Yet it’s not really so much about what Natalie is going through as it is how the other characters react to it. We see her making certain mistakes, but we only hear about the other stuff she’s going through, and there’s a lot of everyone else talking about her. Really, this is Jeremy’s chance to shine and to lead up to the inevitable moment where these two finally admit their feelings to one another (again, in Natalie’s case, since everyone else seems to know but Jeremy).

If there’s one thing audiences really learn from this episode, it’s the dangers of Monday-morning quarterbacking. Everyone thinks they know better than a coach or a player, but as Casey points out, we’re not the ones who’ve spent all week studying the film and practicing, and we weren’t there. A little critique is healthy and what keeps a lot of people employed, but it’s not fair to shred them to pieces either, because we probably couldn’t do what they do. Sports Night—educating non-sports fans about the sports world, one small subplot at a time.

Sports Night is available on Hulu.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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