Up All Night: Season 1, Episode 1
At its worst, the pilot of Up All Night feels like it went through some major rewrites and reshoots before making it to air. Which is no great shock since, well, it did. The show overhauled the character of Ava, an Oprah style talk show host, to make Maya Rudolph more prominent after the success of Bridesmaids, and as we'll get to in a moment, it shows. Yet at its best, Up All Night is something that promises to be a rarity in this pilot season: a sitcom with real promise and a strong enough personality to give me faith that its going places.
Chris and Reagan Brinkley (Will Arnett and Christina Applegate) are a hard partying power couple: he a lawyer, she a higher up behind the scenes of Ava, the show centered around her boss (played, as I said before, by Maya Rudolph). Their lives change forever when they (obviously) discover they are about to have a baby. Flash forward and Chris is a stay at home dad to their infant daughter while Reagan prepares to return to her job at the show, which has been floundering without her.
I liked this pilot a good deal, which is why I want to start with the good. For one thing, both Arnett and Applegate turn in great work, forging a completely believable marital bond in the first few minutes of the show and filling it out with nicely realized touches like calling their anniversary "anniversary times" and bantering over Chris' favorite shirt, which has ever more holes in it from use. The two are clearly used to each other's idiosyncrasies, but it's more than that: they seem to truly connect and enjoy each other the way you would hope a married couple might. Most of my favorite moments in the episode come in the little moments between them, the small, strange exchanges and odd anxieties that keep them, for lack of a better term, Up All Night.
I also loved Maya Rudolph, an incredibly capable comedic performer who will absolutely do great things with Ava...once the writers figure out who she is. For now, she comes off as mostly formless, a character that feels wrongly shoed into the quiet, well-observed family comedy the show is at its heart. Ava is an incredibly broad construction, and so is the set of the show at which she and Reagan work. This is problematic, and makes the pilot feel almost like the first episode of two wildly different shows: the first that well-observed family comedy about two parents learning how to be adults, and the second a broad, wacky comedy more in the style of 30 Rock. Neither of these is a bad television show, but together they make things feel a little unbalanced.
This is a pilot problem, though, and I sincerely doubt it will plague the series much once it gets its sea legs. Arnett is great here, toning down his broadness to a more realistic level but keeping his brilliant comedic timing. Applegate is just the right mixture of quirky and sarcastic to play off him well. And Maya Rudolph can wring laughs out of anything you throw her way. With an ensemble this strong, creator Emily Spivey (veteran of SNL who also wrote the great Parks and Rec episode "Eagleton") behind the wheel and producer Lorne Michaels (who, in addition to SNL has given us 30 Rock) overseeing it, I have no doubt that this show will be going places in the coming weeks. And I plan to be around to see it take off.
-While I will be watching this show every week, you can look forward to Gaila's coverage of it every Wednesday night from here into perpetuity, starting next week. Be gentle to her.
-"So you're already in a home and I'm dead?"
-"We should probably cool it on the cussing." "Oh, fuck, you're right. Eh, she's asleep, she can't hear us. Holy shit!"
-"Oh, shut up Matt Lauer!" I say that all the time...
-"God, your beats are so tight after three jaeger bombs."
-"Come on, babe, worry. I can't totally do this."
-Will Arnett pushing the baby away from that old lady was great. He is an excellent physical comedian, and I hope the show remembers that going forward.
-"Cheese guy says we're gonna need a rinder."
-"At least you don't have to work." "Yeah, because raising a human is no work."
-"That's not even your real sex face. I wish it was."
-"Are we dead?"
-"Don'tworry, I'll stop her." "You won't be dead, sweetie. You won't be able to stop me."
Tags: Up All Night