You can’t have it all these days, but the characters of NBC’s newest comedy Up All Night sure as s*** are trying! For Chris (Will Arnett) and Reagan (Christina Applegate), the young, ambitious couple who learn they are pregnant in the teaser to the pilot, it is certainly a fish-out-of-water scenario. They are well outside their comfort zone when they get pregnant, and things don’t really change all that much in the months we fast-forward through to see them with the baby. But Up All Night is about so much more than just the pitfalls of parenting; it is about how these two very specific individuals deal with change in general. Both are somewhat reluctant to give up the life they know and love– a life they were perhaps just starting to fully enjoy after working so hard to get there. Even if you are not a parent (yet), Up All Night is extremely charming, heartfelt, and of course, funny in its characters ineptitude at adapting.
It is extremely refreshing to see the love between this little family, even when they are using expletives to describe just how beautiful their little girl is. They may not be fully ready to let go of some of their old ways, but they mean well, and their warmth and love truly radiates off the screen. You can’t help but mimic their wide, sometimes goofy smiles watching scenes in which they interact with their daughter, and in those without her but instead featuring Maya Rudolph as Reagan’s “tells it like it is”/slightly inappropriate (though admittedly underused thus far) boss, come a few hearty chuckles, too.
Though Up All Night is not a show simply about parenting, much of the initial visual humor of the pilot revolves on waking the baby or dealing with a (albeit adorable) pile of dirty baby socks. It’s a balancing act for these two who used to work hard and party harder. But now only one of them, Reagan, is going back to work, while Chris likes to point out that raising another human is a job, too. Despite the role reversal, there is no bitterness involved; even when Chris calls his wife at work to ask her where to find the cheese in the supermarket he didn’t know got so big, he is not completely overwhelmed. Gone are the “hapless” dads of sitcoms past; both of these characters have their own shortcomings…mostly tied into the fact that they’re just so tired.
Chris is the most down-to-Earth guy Arnett has ever played, and “grounded” looks good on him. In Up All Night the job of larger than life goes to Rudolph as a self-centered talk show host who doesn’t give a second thought to forcing her whole staff on an unhealthy cleanse one day, and then, when it is determined to be wildly unhealthy, scrap the show and make them all scramble to schedule a new one with only a few days notice. Coming from the sketch comedy world, this is a color Rudolph wears extremely well, and the small but lovably wacky doses we get of her leave us wanting so much more! Applegate’s Reagen meets those two somewhere in the middle, unafraid to make a fool of herself in front of either of them– whether it is with drunken karaoke at a bar or melting down in her kitchen over thinking Matt Lauer is talking to her throug her TV.
The star power of this show can’t be ignored, but right now Up All Night does feel a little restrained and contained by really only featuring three characters (well, four if you count the baby). A healthy sprinkling of extended family and other co-workers– and hopefully an extension for Jennifer Hall, as a harried and underappreciated assistant and actually meeting the other dad with whom Chris has so much fun online gaming– will help round out the show and help the characters find their way. Like how it takes a village to raise a child, it may take one to raise this television show.
Up All Night will premiere on NBC on September 14th at 10pm before moving to its regular time slot of Wednesdays at 8pm on the 21st.
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