Our 5 favorite sports sitcoms that score every time
From the classic 'Coach' to 'Sports Night,' here are some of the best sitcoms to watch after the game.
NBC is hoping its new soccer-related comedy will have viewers shouting "GOOOOAAAALLLL!"
The network has teamed up with Keshet Studios to adapt the hit Israeli series "Imported" for the U.S. market. The series will follow an American family that moves to London after one of their sons is drafted by a top English soccer club. The comedy is the latest in a string of Israeli originals, including the dramas "Homeland" and "Allegiance," that have been rebooted for international audiences.
Where "Imported" will eventually rank in the pantheon of sports comedies is anyone's guess. As a sort of pregame, we offer below our five favorite sport-related sitcoms from the many that have aired since the late 1970s. Let us know which one you think scores the most points in your book.
Sports Night | 1998-2000
Created by Aaron Sorkin, "Sports Night" was a half-hour comedy on ABC that revolved around two best friends who also happened to be the co-anchors of a fictional nightly sports show. The series, reportedly modeled on the early days of ESPN's "SportsCenter," is notable for being the first to introduce audiences to Sorkin's now widely recognizable style of quick dialog and "walk and talk" filming.
It's interesting to note that while Season 1 of "Sports Night" started off with a laugh track, Season 2 abandoned it completely. It was a reflection of the shift the series took toward something a bit more dramatic, as well as the harbinger of more forward-thinking laugh track-free sitcoms like "30 Rock" and "The Office." As Sorkin mentioned in a recent retrospective on the series, it's definitely something he would love to do again.
"I would love to go back and rewrite every episode," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I could do that show better. There’s even been times when I’ve thought about setting up the same premise and either doing Episode 46 or doing it with a new cast and re-piloting it."
Eastbound and Down | 2009-2013
Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, "Eastbound and Down" was a comedy series on HBO that featured a burned-out Major League Baseball pitcher (played by Danny McBride) who returns to teach physical education at his old middle school. The show was notable not only for its guest stars like Matthew McConaughey and Jason Sudeikis, but also for its original (and sometimes brazen) use of comedy.
"We really wanted to tell something about a man who is basically a fallen hero," co-creator Jody Hill told FSR. "Sports, which we actually know nothing about, is the closest thing we have in terms of how our world likes celebrity and athletes; those are the people everybody is fascinated with. We wanted to take a modern-day hero and show what happens when he loses it all, and you start the quest with that."
The League | 2009-2015
Set in Chicago, "The League" was a hilarious comedy on the FX network that revolved around six friends and their obsessions with fantasy football. The series was known not only for its raunchy humor, but also for the sheer number of guest stars it featured over the years. Bob Odenkirk, Snoop Dogg, Mark Cuban, Timothy Olyphant and Kristin Cavallari were just some of the notables who joined in on the fun.
It's also worth noting that while the series used fantasy football as its hook, it's the relationships that made viewers continue to tune in.
“It’s not a comedy about fantasy football, it’s a comedy about people who are in a fantasy-football league,” co-creator Jeff Schaffer told Time. “If you’re doing a show about firemen, they’re not always sitting around talking about fires, they’re also growing mustaches and making chili – they’re doing other things.”
Coach | 1989-1997
Arguably one of the most successful sports comedies of all time, "Coach" told the story of a head coach (played by Craig T. Nelson) of a fictional college football team and his family. In an early-1990s era dominated by big names, "Coach" held its own – with an average of over 17 million people tuning in during the show's fifth season.
Earlier this year, NBC announced that it was moving ahead with plans for a "Coach" sequel, with Craig T. Nelson signed on to reprise his role. A pilot was filmed and the premiere date was set. But then, according to "Coach" creator Barry Kemp, NBC execs decided not to move ahead. The reason? The concept apparently felt a bit dated.
"It doesn't have the rhythm of shows on now, but it wasn't designed that way," Kemp told TV Insider. "It was designed to be a continuation of a show that was on earlier.”
Seinfeld | 1989-1998
What in the world is "Seinfeld" doing on a list about sports sitcoms? While it's obviously not purely a sports-themed comedy, some of the best "Seinfeld" moments involved George Costanza, played by actor Jason Alexander, and his job with the New York Yankees. As one might expect, this led to all kinds of guest spots from the world of professional baseball, including Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill and even Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
For a time, according to the Yankees, George Costanza actually received fan mail delivered to Yankee Stadium.
Want to hear something even funnier? Jerry Seinfeld's favorite team is not the Yankees, but the Mets. Nonetheless, the sport in general is very close to his heart. "I learn something every time I watch it," he told ESPN. "Sometimes it's about baseball, sometimes it's about life. But it's always something."
Friday Night Lights | 2006-2011
Although it's not designed to tickle your funny bone, we wanted to end with one last sports-themed series that's simply too good to pass up.
Based on the hit 2004 film of the same name, "Friday Night Lights" focuses on a high school football team and the small Texas community that reveres them. The show's production was unique in that scenes were never rehearsed and, as long as they hit major plot points, actors were allowed to change lines and go off-script.
"If we have an idea, we’ll just do it, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll say, let’s do it the other way," actor Jesse Plemons told the Chicago Tribune. "It’s such a comfortable environment that every idea you have is just really encouraged, and a lot of it ends up making it in [to the final product].”
Despite average ratings, the show was beloved by critics and attracted a strong fan base. It also racked up the accolades, with a Peabody Award, Television Critics Award and two Emmys for writing and lead actor.
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