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'Sports Night' nostalgia recap: This is why we can't have nice things

Season 1 | Episode 16 | “Sally” | Aired Feb 23, 1999

When someone’s name is the title of an episode, you know that’s either very good or very bad. In the case of Sports Night‘s “Sally,” it’s very bad—at least for Casey, who is about to discover something he never wanted to know. It’s also bad for Dana, who starts to surmise that there’s a reason things have seemed so off with Gordon for the last several episodes. This is aside from the fact that he’s played by Ted McGinley, who is commonly enlisted to play jerks and unintentionally kill TV shows.

But first, it is an incredibly slow news day at CSC, which means we can devote an entire scene to the control-room regulars. Shout-out to supporting actors Kayla Blake, Greg Baker, Timothy Davis-Reed, Jeff Mooring, and Ron Ostrow, who were as much a part of the show as the regular cast—and who are much beloved. (If you have the 10th Anniversary Edition DVD set, please watch this episode with commentary, as almost all of them are on it and it is fabulous.) It also means that Dan and Casey can discuss the fact that Casey is missing a shirt, which Dan deduces must mean that Casey spent the night with a woman for the first time since his divorce. “I’m so proud of you,” he gushes, like a proud parent.

Speaking of parents, Natalie has invited Jeremy to spend time with her family, which prompts a whole rambling monologue in which we learn that his heritage goes back to Latvia. Yay for miscellaneous facts. Dana kicks Jeremy out of Isaac’s office so that she can complain about Gordon having stood her up the night before, while swearing that this isn’t going to make her insecure. The problem is that Dana has never been that secure to begin with. She runs off to tell Natalie and make an awkward phone call to her boyfriend, who placates her by saying that he’ll take her out tonight instead. Natalie still thinks that Dana doesn’t like Gordon.

An eggnog spit-take and one Merchant of Venice reference later, Dan continues the Spanish Inquisition. He wants to know who Casey slept with, and the fact that Casey doesn’t want to tell him only makes him more suspicious. Cut to Dana asking Natalie if Casey has been seeing Sally Sasser (Brenda Strong), she of the most blatant flirting ever. Natalie insists that Dana’s anchor is not sleeping with her rival, because he’d know that that would make Dana upset.

As if on cue, here’s Sally striding into Dan and Casey’s office with the score on the Michigan-Michigan State game. Dan rightfully asks her why she’s wearing heels when she’s already “nineteen feet tall,” and then has to go look up what “diminutive” means. But that means he’s still in the room when Sally tells Casey that she can’t find “the thing,” and then everything becomes clear: The woman whom Casey spent the night with was, in fact, Sally. Dan thus rescinds his earlier kudos, and adds that under no circumstances should Dana find out. Note the dramatic score beat that happens right after that sentence.

Casey interrupts Gordon and Dana’s snuggle session in the control room, because really, that’s the kind of thing that should be interrupted. This is how he realizes that Gordon is wearing his missing shirt—which means Gordon has been cheating on Dana with Sally. He confronts Gordon about this very important fact, but the other man has little to say about it, leaving Casey to brood over whether or not he should tell Dana and destroy her quickly crumbling hopes for a happy ending. In the end, he chooses to let her believe everything is fine, because while he and Gordon may share the same questionable taste in women, at least he’s still a good guy.

“Sally” is an awkward episode for every single character, but all we really didn’t know about it was the “who.” The “what,” as far as something breaking up Dana and Gordon’s relationship, has been on the wall for several episodes at this point. If we’re honest, they never seemed that well matched to begin with. The fact that the destruction also happens to involve Dana’s worst enemy and one of her closest friends just makes it more uncomfortable. It’s not like it’s a surprise that Casey slept with Sally, given how aggressively she’s flirted with him since she was introduced, but that would’ve been weird enough for Dana on its own. The fact that both of the men in her life are sleeping with the same woman she doesn’t like at all is what’s the real killer.

The magnitude of this development means that it pretty much dominates the episode. There’s not much else happening here, except the minor subplot about Jeremy spending Easter with Natalie’s family (and trying to make himself like egg nog), then some well-deserved extra screen time for the recurring cast members. This is not the most productive episode of Sports Night, which is oddly appropriate, since it’s all about a slow news day. But thinking about how much pain Dana will be in when she inevitably finds out about Sally almost makes you wish that we actually had highlights of that Michigan-Michigan State game.

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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