Up All Night: An Unfunny Thing Happened on the Way to Your Television Screen

By now most people should know that TV critics receive screeners for new shows sometimes months before they actually premiere. Many of these are rough edits with incomplete special effects, missing titles, and sometimes even placeholder casting, so they all come with disclaimers politely asking the critic not to actually review these versions. In the case of Ringer, I didn't think much of the now-famously bad special effects in the speedboat scene, as I believed it'd be fixed in the final version. Whoops! But something curious happened to Up All Night between the screener I watched and what aired last night on NBC: It changed—in small yet major ways—and not for the better.

Now, it's probably unfair for me to criticize a show based on a version that wasn't intended for audiences to see. Heck, it's probably even unethical (in which case, whoops, guess I'm going to TV critic jail! Byeeeee!) However, for weeks I've been telling anyone who would listen about how great Up All Night is, and while I still think it is one of the strongest new comedies of the fall season, I feel like I have to rescind some of those raves now. Sorry, NBC!

The worst change relates to the Christina Applegate character's job and especially her boss (played by Maya Rudolph), who is now an upbeat, Oprah-like talk show host rather than the slightly scary type-A publicist she used to be. Creator and former SNL writer Emily Spivey attributes the change to wanting a more comedically fruitful occupation for Rudolph to inhabit (I guess the bizarre nightmare jungle of PR isn't ripe enough). The problem is that Up All Night's greatest strength was its ability to balance semi-realistic, situational comedy centered on new parents with the somewhat serious reality of working a sucky job you could get fired from. Before, there was a real tension, when Applegate's character Reagan had to decide whether to honor her boss' demands to work late or instead go home to celebrate her seventh wedding anniversary, and it was actually painful when she chose to work late instead. But now that she works in a cartoonish candyland of an office, Reagan just sort of seems like a jerk for standing her husband up.

The biggest bummer about giving Maya Rudolph's character an allegedly "funnier" occupation is that, in the anything-goes world of entertainment, her increased zaniness ends up coming across as less funny—and worse, it undercuts the semi-realism the show had previously nailed. My favorite scene in the original cut of Up All Night—which also aired in ads on NBC throughout most of the summer—involved Reagan's first day back at work and her boss pretending to know the name and gender of Reagan's baby but getting everything wrong. The lady just doesn't care about Reagan's baby, and it was funny watching her pretend to. In the version that aired last night, that entire scene was gone and instead there was a super broad bit about the whole office doing a cleanse or something? I don't even remember! All I know is, now Rudolph's character, Ava, is just a nice woman who isn't totally there, whereas before she was slightly ruthless and self-absorbed but had an occasional streak of decency. In that case it actually meant something when she unexpectedly showed up to do karaoke with Reagan and her husband Chris. And then it meant something when she gave Reagan the next day off. In altering this particular working dynamic to broad-strokes comedy without stakes, it kind of changed the entire tone of the show. Again, it might seem like a tiny change, but for me the result was kind of big: I think I care about the characters less now.

Thanks for listening guys, I just really needed to get that off my chest. Anyway, now that I've mentioned the stuff that bugged me about this new and "improved" version of Up All Night, it's only fair that I point out the BEST stuff about last night's premiere (and there were tons of good moments). Credit where credit's due!

The only Maya Rudolph-related improvement that I'll admit to liking: The opening credits of her character's talk show. Apparently her "hardscrabble upbringing" included a stint in a TLC-esque all-girl R&B; group. Yup, the new Up All Night is a wigs 'n costumes kind of show, but then again, I am always a sucker for good TLC joke.

The old lady stalking Chris and the baby through the grocery store was such a weird, funny throwaway joke. So good.

I was so glad this bit survived the retool: Ava slurring the lyrics to "It's Raining Men." I want this to be my new ringtone!

And not to get all mushy, but I really loved the closing scene—which mirrored the also-awesome opening scene—in which Reagan paints a grim yet heartfelt portrait about her future in a rest home (Chris will be dead, as she informs him) and then promises that no amount of partying or sloppy parenting will ever prevent her from being there for her child. It was just so earnest without being overly sentimental, and perfectly summed up who these people are, why they're so weird, and especially why they may prove to be the best marriage on television.

So just so we're clear, I think Up All Night has a ton going for it. It's got a crackling sense of humor that verges on thoughtful, and the way it avoids baby-related comedy cliches is truly outstanding. And the bleeped-out swearing! I love me some bleeped-out swearing. (However, in the new version, even the bleeps had been altered to be less funny. Oh chill out, NBC Standards & Practices!) I'm going to continue tuning in every week, but hopefully Up All Night will gravitate back to the organic, realistic humor that won me over in the first place. Leave the broad workplace comedy to 30 Rock, please.

 

What did you guys think? Am I being too harsh?

Comments (40)
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Damn, what a disappointment this show was! It wasn't funny and it just seemed kind of weird and boring. What a come down from "Samantha Who?" (a far better show) for Christina Applegate. I looked forward to that show every week. This show is definitely gone from my must see list.
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I liked it. The humor just flowed, nothing was forced.
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I think I'm going to delete this one from my pvr.
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Agree, also. You said it best. This show has the talent, has the premise, even has a great look (i love how Christina Applegate is one of the few actress in t.v. who was probably asked to keep her baby weight on, just a little. Her body looks like a new mother and not in a bad way). The show was not edgy enough for me. The original version sounds really funny and all the stuff they kept from the original to the bookend conversations to the bleeped out curse words were funny but Maya R. deserves to be edgy. Not cartoonish edgy like Sue Sylvester on Glee but i would not mind her being Meryl Streepish in the Devil Wears Prada, just a little. I felt like all the scenes felt natural and the show was not trying to lose it realistic feel for comedy (except a few moments like in the grocery store). I also love that we have a stay at home father on television now. I doubt he is the first but it is an interesting new trend.
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Agreed!
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I totally agree withmost everything you said about Up All Night. It was funny in spots, but mostly disappointing. Christina and Will are both very funny (or can be), so I'm not giving up on them, but Maya is just bad - so unfunny, and mostly, just in the way. Hope this show gets a new direction, makes major changes and is funnier, at least most of the time. Looking forward to that...
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No I think your spot on, i agree with everything you wrote and i never watched the original version but i did see the short they had as a selling piece for the show (which had a lot of the plot of this first episode) and sme of those things you mentioned from the original. I was wondering if it was Maya sudden film success which 'persuaded' the writers to change her character. Cristina and Will are such lovely match though, looking forward to more...
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Disappointing so far. Not funny at all, not even Applegate which i loved in "Samantha Who?"
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I don't understand one bit from people at all. Why do people judge a tv series from the debut pliot episode and also the first half of the seeason? You do know right, they're building up on the characters first before getting to the storyline directy. When we know the characters along enough from the debut episode or the first of the season. It will get more interesting/enjoybe and funnyble than the time had started. Maybe some theme tv series are not made for your type of view interests.



Anyway, i thought Up All Night was quite interesting and had some funny moments. I like it alot. I shall will be one of the people, will continue watching this.
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I don't understand one bit from people like you at all. Why do you judge people who judge a tv series from the pilot and also the first half of the season? There's more than a decent chance that if I find the pilot and the next few episodes suck, I'll find that the whole series will suck -- do viewers have to sit through a whole season or two of a show they think sucks and keep hoping that it gets better? You can't guarantee that a show will get better -- some just stink (for that particular viewer).



Besides, if network execs can decide to pick up or decline shows based on pilots, I think viewers have every right to judge it by that one episode too.
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We did that with Parks and Rec, and now that's pretty damn funny. What this show needed was a six episode first season to test out the plot. Afterward, they could make their cuts accordingly, hire Adam Scott and Rob Lowe, then have comedy gold.
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It was ok, but missed a lot of marks for funny. Especially the closing which was almost perfect, just needed the baby fart to snap them back to reality. Much like Raising hope, great cast and good chemistry can make up for SOME writing flaws, not all. Rudolph for me just does not fit at all.

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Love Christina and Will, lots of potential, but that being said it does have to develop more.

Still better than any reality or dancing or amateur hour show!!!!!!
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I hated it - changed it after 5 minutes. Free Agents was way better then Up All Night.
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it was better than I expected. but these types of shows alwase baffle me, they are starting were other long running shows end (the part most people don't want to see lol) ill give it a few more eps. i like the actors the premise not so much.
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i loved it.
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Watched "Up all Night" and it was crap! I found it unfunny and disturbing!
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Yeah, this was one of the few new shows I told myself I had to watch, mainly because of the cast, but also because of the few early reviews I had read of it. The biggest praise I read in those early reviews was for Maya Rudolph and her awesomeness. Upon watching this episode, I didn't find her awesome/cool/funny at all. I guess this article explains why; the early reviews were based on a different version of the pilot -- and the biggest change was her character. This episode was alright -- it's kind of worrisome that the biggest laugh I had was because of an old lady in a superstore.
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Tobias Funke - Nanny PIPE BOMB
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I didn't see any screeners. All I saw was the piece of crap NBC aired last night. It wasn't remotely funny. I won't ever watch that POS again.
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. Lets be honest , the main problem is the writing. The jokes and the story felt tired and predictable. The characters were one dimensional and boring.I dont blame the actors / actresses so much as the writers.
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To me, the pilot was alright. Not much really happened. I see some potential though. I found Will Arnett's scenes more entertaining then anyone elses. Where Christina's character works is more annoying and boring. Also, Maya Rudolph's character annoyed me.
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So you were annoyed during two thirds of the pilot and still think it's okay ?
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I don't think this show is established enough to be funny, so I'm going to give it some time.



I thought "wicked hot sting ring" was funny, Maya is always amusing and this show has potential (with more characters).
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Didn't make me laugh once, oh wait, one chukle, when Arnett said "We're on your side" I won't even try a second episode. If an apparent comedy can't make you laugh on the the big premiere, that's real bad. And the opening with the cleanser? that was totally stupid, when it starts out that bad, it not good. Too bad, I really like Applegate.
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I don't understand what they are going for with the swearing beeped out. Is it supposed to be funny? It just reminds me I'm watching network TV.



This show just doesn't seem like it is going to figure out a way to be funny. All the jokes in this episode seemed way to big and stupid (Rudolph's character) or small and pointless (old lady in grocery store).



I honestly got more enjoyment from watching Running Wilde than this. By a long shot.
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I loved it!
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I smiled sometimes, laughed, never. If this show is supposed to be funny they have to do a lot better.
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Still think Will Arnett should've ditched this deal for The Office.
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That's a bummer, Price! I hope they are listening.
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I laughed a little. The old lady in the grocery store was funny. I didn't find the club scene funny and I rolled my eyes each time Maya was on screen. It's just the pilot so I'll tune in a few more times.... since I still think UAN has potential.
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So, to make it short, Up all night is not Raising Hope ?
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Oh, Price, thank you! I do really take your criticism and reviews into account because, sorry for the presumption, I actually think you and I share similar points of views on things. So, when I watched Up All Night I really thought I had to revisit my general view on life, because I did not get the raving reviews you placed on earlier news pieces. I figured I'm just not in the point of my life where the baby drama is so tangible I get to appreciate all the angst related jokes, etc. So, phewf! Now I'm good, because I totally agree with all the things you pinpointed as good and bad. I guess my main let down was Ava's character, because I had high hopes for her, considering your previous description, and the actual delivery was such a let down.... And, really, 10 minutes of cleansing? So not cool. Plus, Ava, in general, seems like she's taking hard core brain meds and mixing them with alcohol all day long, instead of having an actual personality... Other than that, I am watching this show because I LOVE Christina Applegate and Will Arnett has the sexiest voice in town, but yeah... hopefully they will pick up the pace a bit.
More+
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I did indeed love the final scene, but I also had a hard time relating to anything workplace-oriented. I would have loved a harsher environment there.
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I actually thought the cheese/old lady incident was one of the drier spots.



I was bursting with laughter on more than one occassion. I've never been the biggest fan of Applegate, but she murdered that episode, hilarious from start to finish.
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I thought it was fun, mostly to see Will Arnett's "get me out of here" walkaway look. I rewound it just to see it again. It reminded me of his brilliant Job "Arrested Development" overreactions.
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Agree re: old lady. Pretty lame sight gag joke to fill time and joke quota.
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I thought it was great! It's nice to see Will in a role that doesn't make him a douche.
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Just watched Up all night, and I do agree, I didn't find Maya Rudolph's character to be spot on. Of course, unlike you, I don't have an unedited version to compare it to, but it almost seemed like her character couldn't decide what it wanted it to be; the difficult bitchy boss, the funny boss or just a carefree useless one. To be honest, I found the premiere of 'free agents' much more entertaining than up all night, even though i looooove christina applegate!
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I hated it! It's not funny at all (ok, besides the old lady in the grocery store). I had the impression to be back in the 90's! Nothing original about the characters or the story itself, unfunny jokes, I had to force myself to watch it until the end of the episode. Definitely not the greatest new show for this fall...
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