[06/28/11 - 12:21 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Up All Night" (NBC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]

(written by Emily Spivey; directed by James Griffiths; TRT: 23:28)

The network's description: "From Emily Spivey (NBC's "Parks and Recreation," NBC's "Saturday Night Live") and legendary Emmy Award-winning producer Lorne Michaels, comes "Up All Night," a modern take on parenthood that shows the challenges of balancing a career, marriage and a new baby. Christina Applegate ("Samantha Who?") stars as Reagan, a successful public relations executive, and Will Arnett ("Arrested Development") plays Chris, Reagan's supportive, stay-at-home husband. The two have just become parents - a surprise that has set their lives on a new path as responsible adults -- for the most part.

Maya Rudolph ("Saturday Night Live," "Bridesmaids") stars as Ava, Reagan's outlandish boss and best friend, whose whirlwind social escapades serve as constant reminders of Reagan's former carefree life. James Pumphrey ("High Road") portrays Brian, Reagan's socially awkward hipster assistant. "Up All Night" is a production of Universal Media Studios and Broadway Video. Spivey is the creator and serves as executive producer along with Michaels and Jon Pollack (NBC's "30 Rock")."

What did they leave out? The show's previous working title was "Alpha Mom."

The plot in a nutshell: It's public relations executive Reagan Brinkley's (Christina Applegate) first day back at work since giving birth to Amy. "Babe worry I can't totally do this," her husband Chris (Will Arnett) inadvertently lets slip at the prospect of being a stay at home dad. You see, Reagan and Chris didn't exactly plan to get pregnant. And it's been quite an adjustment as with parenthood comes responsibility: no more drinking, smoking or wild nights out until all hours (Reagan: "We should probably cool it on the cussing." Chris: "Oh shit, you're right."). Thankfully their upcoming seven-year anniversary signals a much needed break from all of the above, if they can just get to it.

You see, Reagan's bombastic boss Ava (Maya Rudolph, frequently channeling her Oprah impression) wants to land up-and-coming actor/teen dream Johnny Cope (Reid Ewing) as a client and it's going to take a night of wooing to do just that, one that unfortunately falls on said anniversary. Their big night ruined, Chris and Reagan decide to double down with a smorgasbord of shots, karaoke and other drunken tomfoolery. This of course backfires in the form of the hangover of all hangovers, further amplifying their parenting foibles. It's enough to make Reagan realize she can't have it all and, well, you can fill in the blanks from here.

What works: I really wanted to like this. Applegate, Arnett and Rudolph are all funny cats with strong pedigrees as is Spivey and of course Michaels but...

What doesn't: ...it's just not funny. "Up All Night" instead plays like a parenting horror film with the closing lesson being the crushing realization life will never be the same again. Not exactly the recipe for a half-hour of laughs, is it? While comedies don't necessarily have to be laugh-track fueled joke machines, they do have to have a comic point of view. Here that view is the harsh light of day of parenthood coupled the increasingly sobering anxiety over the fact this is indeed the new status quo. That's not to say it doesn't pull off said tactic - it definitely feels real and authentic - it's just there isn't a moment that goes by where you don't ask, "so the funny will start soon right?"

Even worse, the few actual jokes fall flat, whether it's Chris freaking out he can't find the cheese at the grocery store; Matt Lauer taunting Reagan's lack of parenting skills through the TV screen/fourth wall; Reagan's assistant Brian (James Pumphrey) trying to be cool with her new mom status ("Is lactating a thing?"); or Ava and Reagan's attempts at repartee (Ava: "When you're not here it feels like Destiny's Child minus Beyonce." Reagan: "Awww, you made me Beyonce." Ava: "I did." Reagan: "Is that because my butt's really big now?" Ava: "I've never seen it so juicy."). They're comedic afterthoughts at best, awkward bumps at worst. So if you're looking for an unflinching window into the lives of new parents, you'll definitely be sucked into this one. Otherwise if you want the funny...

The bottom line: ...it's best to look elsewhere.

  [june 2011]  


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