Hey, How's It Going, Up All Night?

Here at TV.com we try to write about as many shows as we can, but have you SEEN just how much TV exists these days? Hey How's It Going is our way of dropping in on shows we're watching but haven't been reviewing each week.


Hey, how's it going, Up All Night?

When Up All Night premiered in the fall, it had the makings of a megahit: Three hugely talented and appealing actors in a single-camera family-AND-workplace comedy produced by Lorne Michaels. Just a killer pedigree, really. Although I was disappointed by some fundamental changes made to the original pilot before its television debut, I still really appreciated the sensibility (and jokes) Up All Night had to offer and I looked forward to seeing where it would go once it came into its own. But after 21 episodes, Up All Night has barely gone anywhere. While it remains one of the brighter spots on NBC's lineup (and it frequently makes me laugh out loud), there's just something about it that prevents it from being as Must See as NBC might hope. It's regularly my last choice when I scan the DVR for something to watch (as opposed to fellow freshman comedy New Girl, which I watch ASAP). So what is it about Up All Night that works? What's holding it back?



What Works


Up All Night's strengths are many, starting with its main trio of stars. Will Arnett and Christina Applegate remain incredibly likeable (even when their characters are not—more on that in a sec), and Maya Rudolph doesn't have to do much to make me laugh. But the casting department's been working overtime at bringing in just about the best roster of guest-stars on television. Just this season we've had Molly Shannon, Jason Lee, Henry Winkler, Megan Mullally, Jorma Taccone, Blythe Danner, and Will Forte (not to mention Nick Cannon, which, where did he go?). For my money one of the funniest moments of the season involved guest-star Alanis Morissette as a member of Ava's former R&B; girl group; when Ava presides over her wedding, the two go on to reprise the "uncensored version" of one of their hits, "Back It Up (Beep Beep) On My Face," complete with every other word bleeped out. Up All Night's bleeped cursing never fails to make me laugh and it's one of the few elements that keeps this enterprise appropriately edgy.

Save for a few recurring plot threads (including Ava's failed romance with Jason Lee's character), most of the episodes are self-contained, which keeps the tone breezy and inconsequential. So while the show's storylines aren't necessarily the most compelling stuff (your mileage on Hollywood behind-the-scenes comedy may vary), Up All Night is one of the leaders in the art of hilarious throwaway moments. Whether it's Missy modeling a coin slot-exposing gown for Ava or Reagan retreating from a fight with her mother to listen to Depeche Mode in her room, Up All Night is dense with funny non sequiturs.

Basically, to answer the question of "What works?," joke-wise Up All Night is still one of TV's funniest shows.



What Doesn't Work


Here's where things turn into a bit of a bummer. Strong joke-writing can only get you so far when your premise isn't the best. At some point over the course of Up All Night's 21 episodes Chris and Reagan went from unprepared, struggling-to-remain-cool parents to slightly hateful, rich jerks. The biggest target of Chris and Reagan's negativity are the perfectly nice, overachieving neighborhood couple Gene and Terry, whose inherent kindness must be the only reason they continue to put up with Reagan and Chris's overt hostilities toward them. One episode found the two families throwing a joint birthday party for their toddlers at Chris and Reagan's house and it resulted in Chris and Reagan openly judging and even shouting at Gene and Terry's relatives the entire time. It would be one thing if we were supposed to be laughing AT their meanness and how it would come back to haunt them (see: Curb Your Enthusiasm), but Up All Night seems to think we're on Chris and Reagan's side, as if to say, "Look how awful regular people are." As a Los Angeles resident, I find stories about L.A. residents to be particularly uncreative and closed-minded, and Up All Night suffers from this in a big way. Its writers room clearly thinks that wealthy entertainment industry Los Angelenos are relatable and normal. They're not, and I live here.

Entire storylines seem to be infected by this sort of L.A.-centric thinking: At one point Chris stumbled into a job as an on-air legal consultant on Ava's talk show (and ended up being a hit). First of all, wow! That happens. We should all get jobs from our talk-show host best friends. But worse, Reagan conspired to have Chris fired simply because she didn't want him hanging around in her office so much. I'm sorry, what? How is that not a divorce-able offense? At the end of the overly pat episode, Chris didn't even seem to mind. Again, a wife literally had her husband fired for no substantive reason and it was treated as not a big deal.

Also, too many of Up All Night's plotlines are resolved by spending huge amounts of money or having Ava leverage her fame in order to solve things. Need to fire an incompetent employee? Hire her as your new nanny! Want to help a guy make his ex-girlfriend jealous? Be a famous TV host and pretend to flirt with him at her place of employment! Now, I'm not saying Up All Night needs to be a reflection of everyday life, but the problem is that it presents itself that way. Whether it's the trials and tribulations of new parenthood, drama with extended family, or merely the observational humor of everyday life, these jokes won't land as hard if we're not on the same page as the characters involved. As much as I like the three main actors, I'm just not sure I want to spend more time with Chris and Reagan than I have to.

Finally, it's way too late in the season for these characters to be so ill-defined. Is Reagan a skilled workaholic producer, or an awkward, immature dweeb? Is Chris an oblivious, low-culture dude or is he a vain hunk? Is Ava a super powerful TV industry unto herself, or is she a sensitive best friend with tons of free time? Up All Night would like to say "They're both." But to that I would say, "Nice try." At this point the only believable and relatable character is Amy, but that could just be because I'm a messy eater also.



So... How's It Going?


It's weird to say this, but after 21 episodes my opinion of this show isn't dramatically different from my first impression. Even with nearly a full season under its belt, Up All Night is more about potential than it is fully formed. That said, it's still one of the funniest half-hours in primetime and my season pass will remain intact. Now when's the next episode of New Girl again?

Up All Night airs Thursdays at 9:30 pm on NBC.


How do YOU think Up All Night is going so far?

Comments (28)
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Couldn't sit through the miserable Pilot episode and haven't been back. Nor will I be. Ever.
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I watch this show simply because I've loved Christina Applegate since I first saw her on Married...With Children. Just about anything she's in I'll take a look at. It's a good enough show, although I still haven't figured out if it's about a new mother juggling home and work, a stay-at-home dad, or a TV talk show. With a name like "Up All Night" you'd expect it to be about 2 parents adjusting to their new child. I end up watching it every week but, like you, if there's something else on my DVR I'll watch it first and then tune this in once I've seen everything else.
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I don't know what it is, but I find this show insufferable from the first episode. Originally it was just Rudolph's over-the-top character, but quickly they made the main characters into the aforementioned "rich jerks", needy and yet judgmental to drive everybody away. Well, while that's the intention for the humor, it worked on at least this member of their audience.
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I started wathcing it it. Love Christina Applegate but Will Arnett and Maya Rudoplh have always bugged me and I have a hard time watching them. I gave it 6 episodes but because I didn't like the way they had written Reagan so she couldn't help me overcome my dislike for the others. All it did was make me sad that Samantha Who didn't make it. That had a great supporting cast and she was great in it. This was removed from my DVR because I had no interest in watching it any longer.
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I simply cannot belive that you are siding up with Gene and Terry.. they could well be a reason for me and many people I know to move somewhere else, let alone accept them as normal neighbours and be nice to.. they are awkward, untolerable, stupid, demanding and I can count more.. and oh that birthday.. as I said down in another comment, they were beyond acceptable.. all those people, and their rudeness and you think how rude reagan and chris are? come on! the only thing I dislike is Reagan's overemphasized competitiveness, which sometimes makes me slap her in the face.. other than that chris seems to be the dream father and Ava, turned up to be much closer to normal person throughout the season (she was pretty awkward at the beginning)... this is a sweet, easy going, funny show with of course caricaturized characters, that makes it worth watching..
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I was a bit bored of it during the first 4-5 episodes or so, but I think they've actually found a bit of a groove. The humor isn't particularly creative or "out there" but it's still okay. I think the biggest change for me is Maya Rudolph. I couldn't stand her in the first 4-5 episodes, but over the last 15 or so, she's actually been quite funny and certainly tolerable. I think I'd group this in the same boat as The Office in that while it's okay to watch, I wouldn't mind if it goes off the air either.
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After watching the pilot I said this wouldn't work with Maya Rudolph. She just doesn't fit into this dynamic. Well, they have spent all season bringing in guest stars to prove me right. She is still the thorn in the paw that causes this show to limp through.
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I hate to say it, because I like Maya, but you're absolutely right. I think (to Price's point) the changes in her original character from the pilot episode adversely affected the dynamic of this show. Maya's character was supposed to work at a public relations firm and be sort of a scary type-A personality. But for some reason the producers decided to go with the ridiculously over-the-top talk show route. It's a shame because Up All Night is still very funny, but it had so much more potential.
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Instead of the over-the-top caricature, they needrd a straight face set-up for Rudolph's spot. Allow the FAMILY dynamic to settle in rather than divide between the home and work.

Unfortunately, I think it's too late for recovery. I don't see this show going beyond season 2.
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The sheer comedic experience from Will Arnett, Christina Applegate, and Maya Rudolph is more than enough to keep me following this show.
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It's a comedy show, I don't need perfectly outlined stories or characters, I watch these shows to be entertained and to laugh my a** off, and that I do when I watch Up All Night. Clever jokes and hilarious punch lines paired with sublime acting by people who are always on point make this show worth my every while.
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stopped watching somewhere along the lines. I found myelf not caring for the show and also never laughing. but humor ist different for everyone
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As parents of a 22 month old - My husband and I find ourselves saying at the end of most episodes "do they still have a baby?"



Chris rebuilds a motorbike. Chris gets a job and hangs around the office all day. Chris is a stay at home dad... how can he do all of these things at a moments notice? Where is his child?
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chris has a nanny.. that is the answer of your question.. do you really watch the show?
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How is it ok that he is pretending to be a stay at home dad when he hardly ever stays at home with his kid?

We haven't seen the nanny in ages. We barely see the baby - story lines rarely involve her at all.
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Stopped watching it after the pilot, didn't care for it that much. But if it gets cancelled now i proberly give it one more shot, i guess i can survive 22 episodes.
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Mostly agree with your assessment. I figured I'd give it a shot because I like Christina Applegate, even though I usually can't stand Will Arnett, and I kept watching because it made me laugh more often than not. But I've had this nagging feeling the whole time -- the character's personalities are inconsistent. Successful, even driven, in their careers, and over-aged teenagers in their personal life. Sigh. Wish I could get away with that!

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You can get away with that. There's no reason that having a career means you have to act like an adult in your free time. Having a kid, on the other hand, kind of does.
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No mention of "Birth" saddens me. That was one of the funniest episodes of anything this season. "Oh, now feel it coming back again..." Freaking gold, man.



But you're definitely right on about the show never achieving its potential. There's no reason it shouldn't be the funniest show on television, and yet.



"not to mention Nick Cannon, which, where did he go?"



A hospital, for kidney failure.
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I agree with some of this, but I just have to stick up for Reagan and Chris on the joint birthday party front: Gene and Terry not only gave them zero warning about the incredibly huge amount of people they would be inviting from their family, which is actually really important for planning how much food, party favors, etc to get, not to mention how big of a mess to expect in their home, but their guests did some downright disgustingly rude things. Bare feet on coffee tables, using the couple's private bathroom/rifling through their belongings, and most horrible of all: doing several loads of laundry during the middle of the party. All of this was done without asking. Chris and Reagan do some weird things sometimes, but on this, you have to be one hundred percent on their side.
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Yeah, I'm not sure if he actually watched all of that episode. Because anyone in their right mind would have been more than a little put out.
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We've all been in this situation. Being a good host is not hard. Their reactions were extreme and unpleasant.
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I think their reactions were spot on. Those guests were horrid. And Gene and Terry are probably both serial killers.
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HAHA! True.
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not really.. gene and terry are untolerable.. and so were the guests.. the guy putting his feet on the table next to cheese? the lady doing the laundry? the guy using the private bathroom.. I would have trown all of them away in one hour if I were there and yet Reagan was even nice enough to wear the duck suit..
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Being a good guest is even easier. Their reactions were justified and overdue.
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And on that note I believe the deal was that Gene and Terry would plan the party i.e. take care of the food and party favors and in exchange they would have the party at Chris and Reagan house. And if you don't want to have a joint party with someone say so in the first place don't say yes and then be a dick to their entire family.
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Oh, please. Emily Post would've shown those people the door.
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