The Bottom Line
- Premiere airs September 14, 2011, at 10 p.m. EST on NBC; subsequent episodes air Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
- Stars Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph
- Created by Emily Spivey
Applegate is appealing, too, as a somewhat harried but capable woman who’s determined to have it all, and the performance recalls her likable work on the underrated Samantha Who? A show focused on these two as a couple might work really well, but their dynamic is only one of several elements that Up All Night tries to pull together. The biggest factor is baby Amy, who naturally doesn’t have much of a personality yet, but who remains the focus of the first episode. Modern Family and Raising Hope have both shown recently that babies have limited comedic potential and often need to be downplayed in favor of more articulate, active supporting characters, but at this point Up All Night’s cast is fairly limited. Applegate and Arnett’s best scene together is the opening flashback, in which they wait for the results of a pregnancy test. Once the baby shows up, it’s all worn-out whining and yelling, none of which is especially novel or amusing.
The other factor is Maya Rudolph’s Ava, who was reimagined between the show’s original pilot and the final result, making her wackier and more overbearing, and unfortunately more likely to completely overshadow the show’s ostensible main characters (although Rudolph does get higher billing than Arnett in the credits). Ava is Reagan’s boss, and while she was initially conceived as a high-powered publicist, she’s now an Oprah Winfrey-esque talk-show host whose neuroses tend to overwhelm those around her. Rudolph is a funny performer, but she has a tough time here balancing the approach to Ava as a sort of broad sketch-comedy parody and a real person who seems believable as Reagan’s best friend.
The pilot also has some moments that just feel poorly crafted, including a whole subplot about Chris making a new friend whom we never see or hear from. The inclusion of a number of bleeped swear words is either an ill-advised attempt to seem edgy or a sign of cable-show envy, but either way it’s just off-putting and unnecessary. Applegate and Arnett have a strong enough rapport and enough likability that a show focused on their characters could evolve into something worth watching. But judging from this first episode, it’s more likely that the baby and/or the boss will shift the focus away from the one thing here that really works.