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'Sports Night' nostalgia recap: Finally, it's Dan's social hour

Season 1 | Episode 14 | “Rebecca” | Aired Jan 26, 1999

In “Rebecca,” Sports Night finally lets us make fun of Dan Rydell’s romantic life. We’ve had a couple of episodes now to drive home that Casey doesn’t know anything about women, but as it turns out, his wingman isn’t that much better. Having just dealt with an angry coworker who thinks they slept together, Dan gets onto an elevator with Rebecca Wells (Teri Polo, back when she was still a redhead with a recurring gig on Brimstone) and screws up his romantic life for, essentially, the remainder of the series. Both of these guys are nice, successful, handsome, funny and reasonably smart … and yet, personally, they both wind up batting worse than Jon Lester. It boggles the mind.

“Can I spread it out for you in a nutshell?” Dan asks Casey, who scolds him for mixing his metaphors, since he is, on most days, a professional writer. Dan is undeterred and tells him about being on the elevator with Natalie and Rebecca, whom he doesn’t want to ask out since he’s been on a few dates with a third woman named Elaine, despite being convinced that Natalie has been telling Rebecca he’s going to call her. If you followed that anecdote, you’re better than Casey.

But we do still have business to be done. Isaac calls a one-minute meeting to tell the staff not to worry about an upcoming piece in the Wall Street Journal, so of course they worry about it. The next morning, Isaac has a meeting with network weasel J.J. about the article, which concerns CSC network boss Luther Sachs being reported as courting somebody else for Isaac’s job. It also takes place while the entire senior staff lurks outside the office door.

Once they’re done pretending to want a staple remover, Dan goes to see Rebecca, a CSC financial analyst who turns out to have no expectation that he was going to call her or any idea who he is. Dan has no idea how to react to being completely forgotten, except to keep telling Casey things he never wanted to know and keep apologizing to Rebecca. If being neurotic can also be cute, this is it. “I’m going to go scrape my self-image off the floor and then get ready to do my show,” Dan tells Rebecca, who’s never seen Sports Night and still doesn’t really care who he is. Yeowch.

In other water-cooler news, Dana is nervous that Gordon is about to break up with her, and we can’t possibly imagine why after the whole double-date fiasco that was last week. Natalie pressures her to ask Casey for advice, really just as an excuse to keep pushing Dana and Casey together, but Dana tries it anyway. And we’re glad she does, because that’s how we get a fantastic quote that, if I’m honest, I have pinned above my desk for all the people who tell me I watch too much TV:

“The truth is, I have a job that involves me, and stimulates me, and rewards me, and takes up a lot of my time, and I’m not willing to do my job just a little bit,” she says. “I want to do all of it. It’s part of me, and I am different without it. And that is who I am, and that is who you need to love.”

She doesn’t think that’ll work on Gordon, but Casey disagrees with her. “Dana, any man who hears that and doesn’t stay for a woman like you … I will take whatever time you can give me and be grateful for that all my life,” he says. “Any man who hears that and doesn’t throw you down on the nearest flat surface is just taking up space for the rest of us.”

This makes Dana’s day, and Isaac gets a little bit of satisfaction out of telling J.J. that he’s fairly sure the other man is the anonymous source quoted in the Journal, and that if that’s the case, he’s going to own him. But mostly, what you need to know is that Dan ends this episode exactly where he started: Sitting at the anchor desk, talking about Rebecca. Our boy is like a loyal retriever, and he is not going to let this go.

“Rebecca” is an episode that looks different in retrospect. When you first watch it, you’re really happy for Dan that he’s found somebody he’s interested in, because the show has spent so much time on the Casey-and-Dana love story and because he really is such an awesome person that you want him to be happy. But once you’ve watched the entire series and seen how this romance plays out, your opinion of Rebecca winds up changing quite a bit.

Not that anybody’s romantic prospects are that great, since everyone can see the Gordon trainwreck coming from a mile away—except Dana. These are such endearing characters that they all feel like your friends, and you want your friends to do well and to find the right people, and you beat your head into the wall when they wind up with the wrong people. But that’s another way Sports Night was kind of like life: You knew these characters so well that you started wanting to give them dating advice. Or at least instruct them on how not to mix their metaphors.

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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