NBC’s ‘Up All Night’: Formula-fed, but irresistibly cute
By Hank Stuever,
Hey, married people with babies: Do you really like all these shows about married people with babies? Does the comedization of poopy pants and sleepless nights somehow negate the toil of actual poopy pants, actual sleepless nights? One would think that after enough of that in real life, you’d want to watch anything but.
Then again, I have a knack for being wrong. We tend to gravitate toward characters we can relate to, sometimes literally so, which is why domestic stress among new parents has proved a worthy supplier of TV shows for a good chunk of TV’s history. When there’s a good show about zany-yet-believable parenting mishaps — ABC’s “Modern Family” being the current gold standard — we can all revel in it, whether we have kids or not.
NBC’s new Wednesday night comedy, “Up All Night,” demonstrates how the Diaper Genie springs eternal. Neither smashingly hilarious nor overly redundant, it is instead tolerable and occasionally LOL (as the mommy blogs would say).
“Up All Night” comes from “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels and was created by Emily Spivey, an “SNL” writer who also worked on “Parks and Recreation,” but what the show really has going for it is Will Arnett and Christina Applegate as its stars. Unlike the vaguely familiar actors who drifted through many of last season’s canceled sitcoms about bickering couples who live in West L.A. in houses most of us cannot afford, Arnett and Applegate need no introduction — a lot of viewers like them already.
We like them perhaps a tiny bit less after NBC’s relentless, weeks-long assault of “Up All Night” advertising. From that barrage you already know half of the first episode’s funny lines. You know that Applegate and Arnett play Reagan and Chris Brinkley, parents of precious baby Amy, who is so angelic while sleeping that Reagan and Chris are driven to hover over her crib and utter foul language in awe of her beauty. (“So [bleepin’] beautiful,” etc.)
The well-trod territory of new-parent neuroses is trod once more: The waning libidos of exhausted parents. The grocery-store freakout scene. The fear of never again having a wild nightlife, followed by a montage of a misbegotten, drunken karaoke extravaganza. The lighthearted treatment of the work/life balancing act, as Chris leaves his job at a law firm to be a stay-at-home dad and Reagan returns to her job as a talk-show producer, rising in the morning to squeeze her post-pregnancy body into her office wardrobe while imagining that “Today” show’s Matt Lauer — in a cameo — taunts her pudginess from the bedroom TV.
The interplay between Arnett and Applegate has an instant crackle to it, especially when they argue about which one of them got less sleep during Amy’s latest tearful night.
Just as one’s interest in “Up All Night’s” domestic cliches may flag, “SNL” alum and “Bridesmaids” co-star Maya Rudolph is here to lift the show up several notches as Reagan’s boss, Ava, an Oprah Winfreyesque daytime host with an Oprahesque ego. “We’re doing a cleanse, people!” she yells to her staff, ordering them all on liquid diets — until it’s discovered that the diet is life-threatening.
Channeling the Oprah impression she used to do in her “SNL” days, Rudolph quickly turns “Up All Night” into something worth another whirl or two. Meanwhile, that baby is awfully [bleepin’] cute.
Up All Night
(30 minutes) premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m.on NBC.