‘Up All Night’ strikes perfect balance
September 15th, 2011
10:04 AM ET

‘Up All Night’ strikes perfect balance

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!

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Mason

    My favorite new show on TV. My wife and I just had our first baby and, like the author said, we can relate to every scenario. We love this show.

    October 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Paul

    Great show! I recently became a dad and I also thought of us as a pretty cool hip couple, so this show is pretty amusing to us and where we are at in life right now! loved it

    September 29, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lisa

    I loved the show. I had been looking forward to it since I saw the previews. Although, a little less Maya would make the show perfect. She needs to be a supporting actor, not lead actor.

    September 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Linda

    I thought it was great. I'm currently 30 weeks pregnant, and see my life changing like that in the next 70 days! I think its all about where you all at the time.

    September 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TORI

    I thought this show was wonderful and i can't wait to the next espisode. my daughter will be 2 in October and i Swear this show hits it right on the head about being a new parent.

    September 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nelson

    Critics gave this show good reviews! What show were they watching! The show is not funny!!! How does Will Arnett keep getting work! He must have someone on TV executives!!! It recieved good rating because nothing good was on. Let's see next week when all shows are new.

    I give it half a season before they cancel it.

    NBC needs new blood. Once the best network, now produces Nothing But Crap (NBC)!!!

    September 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Angie

    LOVED IT!!! Looking forward to seeing it each week!

    September 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ashley

    Loved it!! Was so nice to watch this show with my fiance and be able to laugh at their frustrations and in return be able to laugh at ourselves...since we are new parents as well. Will, Christina and Maya are hilarious!! I've missed Will since Arrested D. so glad he is back on TV!!! This is already on my DVR list

    September 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Trubb L. Makker

    make Maya Rudolph the maid and put the show in the 60's.

    September 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lindsey

    I loved it! I thought it was genius marketing a sitcom to young parents. Every fight/laugh/sigh has happened to a young parent at one time. Applegate and Arnett did a great job – completely believable characters and well executed. I will watch each week!

    September 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Daniel

    Tried watching the show for about 20 minutes and found it extremely boring and dull, not one laugh.
    Will not be watching again, my guess is this show will not last more that a few episodes.

    September 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Be Quiet

    Loved it. Best new show of the season so far. Applegate/Arnett are perfect together and I loved how honest and real the show felt. Parents do go out and get trashed from time to time – and the hangover/baby crying scene was hilarious.

    I couldn't disagree more about Eva – I could see Maya Rudolph in the supporting actress category at the Emmys next year.

    September 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. A. Jans

    I watched the premiere last night and while I love Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph, I thought the show was awful! The previews really made it look good but it wasn't. Too many new parent cliches all mixed into one. Boo-hoo now you have a baby...I just wanted to say "get over it" and "grow-up"! Will not be watching this again.

    September 15, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. ryan

    Applegate and Arnett were good, and I really liked this show. But Maya Rudolph needs to go. Without knowing anything about this show, during one scene with Ava, I actually said to my self: "Wow, Lorne Michaels must have some pull to get this horrible character on another NBC sitcom." Turns out Lorne Michaels is the producer. Maya Rudolph, like her or not, should get canned from this show before the show gets canned because of her.

    September 15, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. April

    I tried watching Up All Night. The preview looked like it would be a funny show. The show was dull, lacked humor and the act of the two of them going out drinking and partying til the early hours while a babysitter supposedly watched their small child came across as irresponsible. The could've had a nice time out without acitng like they were in their 20s and not parents. It is a shame that this show is considered a hit when good shows get canned like My Name Is Earl and New Adventures of Old Christine. This is one new show I won't continue watching.

    September 15, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • um ok

      came across as irresponsible? you do realize this is a comedy series and not real life?

      September 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • kjajfkjasdofu

      It came across as 'irresponsible' and yet you enjoy My Name is Earl? You are impossible. Pilots are very fragile things -there's a lot riding on it and as we've seen, amazing shows (Arrested Development) can suffer inexplicably poor ratings because of ridiculous viewers like you who don't even know what they want......It was a great pilot.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  16. CokedUpWerewolf

    This show is awesome... One of the best 1st episodes I've ever seen.
    Favorite line: "Are we dead?"
    Finally a great vehicle to showcase Will Arnetts talent. I am adding this show to my tevo.

    September 15, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  17. Amanda

    I thought it was great! Maya Rudolph made the show for me. I will am definitely including this in my DVR recordings.

    September 15, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  18. Bill

    Two months later?

    My wife wishes pregnancy went that fast.

    September 15, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      Try reading this again Bill:

      "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."

      They jumped forward to two months AFTER the baby was born. It is not two months after they find out they are pregnant.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Peace

    I tryed watching, but, I just couldn't get into it. I tryed though! Hey! Am I firsty?

    September 15, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |

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