September 15th, 2011
10:04 AM ET
After years of drama dominance, it seems like half-hour comedies are enjoying a bit of resurgence this fall. NBC’s “Up All Night,” starring Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph, may be one of the best in the bunch.
The show’s premise is simple: what happens when you go from being a couple to being a family. Applegate and Arnett play Reagan and Chris Brinkley, a television producer and lawyer whose former partying ways are thrown for a loop by the birth of their daughter, Amy.
Applegate is her usual comedic standout self, but Arnett is just as impressive. It feels like every character he’s played since “Arrested Development” has been some variation on Gob Bluth, but in “Up All Night” he’s toned that persona down to become much more relatable, and it suits both him and the show well.
Rudolph plays Ava, a talk show host (and not-so-thinly-veiled take on Oprah Winfrey) for whom Reagan is a best friend and executive producer.
In the original version of the pilot, Rudolph had a smaller role, but following the success of “Bridesmaids” her character was beefed up in the series. Unfortunately, I think that might have been a bad call.
Whenever Ava’s on screen, “Up All Night” turns into a wacky workplace comedy. Rudolph is talented, no doubt, but Ava feels like one of her “Saturday Night Live” characters that jumped to this new show.
My issues with Ava aside, I thought this show hit every other note perfectly.
The premiere starts with Reagan and Chris discovering they’re pregnant. Jump ahead to two months after the baby's born, as Reagan prepares to go back to work, with Chris having decided to be a stay-at-home dad.
Both are struggling in their own ways. Reagan has to balance a demanding career with her desire to be with her new daughter. Chris is feeling overwhelmed. And both of them are dealing with the issues every new parent faces: lack of sleep, shifting plans, changing habits.
A lot of these scenarios are played in typical “hijinx for laughs” manner. But they work because the actors sell them so well, and because they’re all real.
Brief recapper disclosure: I just became a dad for the first time, and I’ve lived the following laundry list of scenarios almost exactly as they played out in the premiere:
New parents realizing they need to cut down on swearing? Check. Struggling during a diaper change with an inexplicably powerful infant’s leg? Check. Wandering the grocery store, unable to find items you once knew the exact location of? Check. And of course, the debate with your spouse over which one of you got less sleep because you were up tending to a crying baby? Big check.
Too much comedy or sentimentality could have doomed “Up All Night” into becoming a dismissible entry in the new TV landscape. But the tone, the writing and the superb acting from Applegate and Arnett elevate it, and make it into what could be another long-running half-hour hit for NBC.
What did you think about the premiere of “Up All Night”? Did it hit close to home for any of you parents out there? And do you think the show has a future, or will it never make it past infancy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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