21. 'Sports Night'
On the surface, it looked like any workplace sitcom you'd find floating around a network's primetime lineup: A Sports Center-like news show that was beset by your usual interoffice romances, behind-the-scenes dysfunction and standard talent-versus-executives bickering. But once you watched a few episodes, you could tell that something else was going — that eloquent, twisty dialogue delivered at a screwball pace and the odd moments of poignancy that popped up even while the jokes were flying fast and furious at you. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's first foray into TV comedy stumbled along for two seasons before ABC pulled the plug, but you could already tell something special had been concocted: A lightning-quick, smart look at a group of people struggling with existential crises, emotional issues and each other, all in the name of a common cause. He'd go on to refine this modus operandi successfully (The West Wing) and with hit-and-miss results (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Newsroom), but this is where the Sorkin Touch really begins, and you could argue that's he never done it better than he does here.—DAVID FEAR