Up All Night's Season 2 Premiere: Life Changes (Or Gets Re-Tooled)

Up All Night S02E01: "Friendships and Partnerships"

When Up All Night first premiered, I devoted probably too much of my review to ranting about how the show had been nearly ruined by re-tooling before it'd even aired. The original version sent to critics two summers ago was edgy, sardonic, and downright grounded, but what premiered on NBC was a comparatively cartoonish, lower-stakes trifle that was nonetheless redeemed by its charming performances and (maddeningly infrequent) laugh-out-loud moments. At the very least Up All Night still had the potential to turn into something great; unfortunately, over the course of 24 episodes, it never did. At its best, Up All Night's first season was breezy and occasionally clever, but at its worst, Up All Night was a waste of time. Too many of the show's characters behaved like jerks and too many of their problems were solved by their wealth or fame. The worst part was, Up All Night remained just good enough to maintain its season-pass status on my DVR, so out of all the shows I made time for each week, it was consistently my last choice. "Watchable but not a priority." —Price Peterson, TV.com

Anyway, I bring up Up All Night's pre-Season 1 re-tooling because the same thing has happened all over again! That's right, apparently that first set of changes didn't get the desired results, so it was time to flip the script yet again, but in the bluntest, least inspired ways. Season 2's premiere "Friendships and Partnerships" made those new changes immediately clear with a winking cold open involving Reagan and Chris remodeling their bathroom. Not only had they hired Reagan's brother Scott—a new lead character—to do the labor, the actual demolition was interrupted by Ava, who breathlessly arrived to announce that her talk show had been canceled. Yes, the SAME talk show shoehorned into Season 1 because of its supposed comedic possibility. But, if you recall, Season 1 suggested that Ava's show had been doing pretty well, so when this episode didn't even bother to offer an explanation for how Ava could have its plug pulled overnight, it was like Up All Night didn't even TRY to come up with a humorous reason. Not a one-liner, not a cut-away joke, nothing? Was the writers' room tired that day? Anyway, Ava is now no more, and the seemingly permanent absence of Missy didn't even merit a mention. So, okay, fine. Season 2 is a reboot!

Except... Up All Night still felt like the same show, only worse. I don't know if there's ever been a less funny, more muddled episode of this show than "Friendships and Partnerships." It involved the same tired plot (Ava and Regan fighting, then making up), plus some stuff about Chris wanting to work for a living. The whole thing was so sluggish and uninteresting that I straight-up could not remember why I'd watched all 24 episodes of Season 1. Did I misremember how funny it was? There's a chance this episode was more concerned with setting up the new realities of Up All Night's characters than it was with knocking our socks off, humor-wise, but come on, guys. You're better than this! Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph still brought their A-games (a bit involving Ava kissing random babies and then adults at the park was the episode's only true highlight), but Will Arnett looked distressingly thin, over-bronzed, and seemed less and less committed to playing the relatably awkward new dad he used to portray. As Scott, Luka Jones is likable—but so far he's totally pointless. Sort of a poor man's Chris Pratt but without the energy or punchlines.

If there's one hope for Up All Night now that it's shaken things up a bit, it's that the characters' new trials and tribulations might actually seem stressful and identifiable. Back before Ava was a talk show host (in the version of the pilot that I'm increasingly convinced I may have dreamed up), she was a demanding, sort of dickish boss to Reagan, and it felt like there were real stakes when Reagan had to decide between work and family. After Season 1 turned them into besties, none of their squabbles ever felt real or consequential (including in this episode, when they temporarily broke up as friends and it was as implausible as Chris's new Bob's Big Boy haircut). Hopefully some kind of workplace tension can be brought back to the show, either through Chris and Scott's new construction company, or whatever new pursuits Reagan and Ava seek out. But dang, it's Season 2 and I'm still hoping this show becomes something better? Get it together, Up All Night! I am firmly in don't-care territory and that bums me out.

What do YOU think of the changes to Up All Night Season 2? Are they for the better, worse, or do they even matter?

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