Apparently retooled late in production of the pilot, Up All Night has struggled in its early episodes to find cohesion between its main focus, new parents Chris and Reagan and their explorations in parenthood, and its amazing sidekick, which focuses on Reagan's job working for an Oprah-like television star, played by Maya Rudolph. Up All Night has had consistently well-done and very funny episodes, but the two halves of the show have often felt very separate and disconnected.
This was my main problem with "Mr. Bob's Toddler Kaleidoscope," which I felt struggled even harder than usual to unite its plots, perhaps because the question of the show's cohesion keeps coming up, in reviews and among critics. To talk about this show at this point is to talk about a new comedy with great potential and a glaring flaw at its core, a flaw most of us are hoping will not lead to the show's downfall.
The main plot this week revolved around Reagan, who was worrying about balancing her duties as mother with her obligation to her job and to Ava. Attempting to ensure their baby's brain development, Chris and Reagan enroll Amy in "baby class" (which appears to consist entirely of games I personally would think you could play with your baby, you know, on your own, but I guess I wouldn't really know), where Reagan encounters a very unpleasant woman whose sole purpose, it would seem, is to unpleasantly needle Reagan about her working-mom status, and where Chris finds his true calling as, well, a dad. While I suppose the whole Mr. Bob part of the episode was pretty funny, I definitely didn't find myself laughing out loud as often as in weeks past, which was disheartening. This plot is resolved when Chris, perfect husband that he is, reassures Reagan of her excellent balancing skills, and Reagan and Unpleasant Mom bond over annoyingly obstinate strollers and potential margaritas. This was nice and all, but I feel like every episode of this show ends with Chris and Amy surprising Reagan by dropping by her work, where Chris can prove how awesome and caring he is. At some point, isn't it going to stop being a surprise that he shows up at work?
The other half of the episode focused on Ava and Reagan, and their friendship. When Reagan has to leave early during a bonding night out (to see Manic Manday, an all transvestite Bangles tribute band) to see Amy, Ava freaks out, and punishes her by asking Missy to write a speech and accompany her to a Zac Posen banquet. This plotline was also not nearly as funny as past weeks, which is unfortunate, though I did get some good laughs out of Maya Rudolph, as usual, and I really enjoyed the girls' night out, before it was cut short.
Ultimately, I think this subplot was tanked due to a significant problem for the show: we don't know why Reagan and Ava are friends. It is clear that Ava needs Reagan, and that they've known each other since Ava was a pop star, but we don't know why Reagan puts up with all the insanity from her. The best part of this show is the perfectly developed relationship at its center, and the way the writers clearly understand Chris and Reagan so well already. The writers of this show clearly don't understand the Ava-Reagan relationship yet (possibly because it was thrust on them late in the game?), and that continues to make Ava's plotlines the weakest part of this show, even in spite of Maya Rudolph's comedic abilities.
Overall, this episode just wasn't as awesome as the last few. While the issue of working-moms might still be a main concern for modern mothers, I feel like we've seen it far too often on television, and it wasn't even saved by being done particularly well and hilariously like Up All Night has been doing. The random scenes where the two sides of the show try to meet still feel strange and jarring, and this wasn't even salvaged by the two sides being independently hilarious. I want the show to try a bit harder to find new things to say about modern parenthood, and I want Ava to always be funny, and I want the show to feel like all the characters have more to do with one another.
-"What baby wants their parents to terrify them? No baby." Mr. Bob was pretty funny, I must admit. I kind of wanted Chris to start his own version of the baby school at the end, and for the two baby schools to begin viciously competing. But that would add another entirely different aspect of the show, and it definitely doesn't need that.
-Chris continues to be a great husband. Ava continues to be a crazy person. Missy continues to be randomly useless and very funny.
-Best Ava moment this week was still in her interaction with Amy. My biggest laugh was definitely at the "Amy, I love what you've done with your hair," and her subsequent complete inability to drive the car away. Give Rudolph more of this to do. She can handle it, and its funny.
-Come on, Up All Night! I believe in you! See you all next week.