May 17, 2012

[TV] Up All Night: Season 1

It's hard to figure out just what shows you might get into. I've had a few cases when I get swept but by the geek buzz about a particular show only to get disappointed once the program actually airs. And there are those shows that I've never heard of before and yet when I give them a shot, I find myself inevitably drawn in.

That's exactly what happened with Up All Night - I had minimal prior knowledge before the show aired beyond the Wikipedia summary. But since it involved Christina Applegate and a few SNL alumni, it seemed like an interesting venture.

So why did this geek fall in love with a show about first-time parents and an Oprah-style character played by Maya Rudolph? It's hard to explain and maybe I'll come up with a decent enough answer over the course of this review. Or at least that's the working theory.

Or maybe I'm just getting older, and thus my parental instincts are looking for an output. And since I obviously don't have children, maybe this show has become a bit of a side diversion along those lines.

Or the show is just funny.

Synopsis: Up All Night is a US television sitcom created by Emily Spivey and broadcast on NBC. The show has ranked as NBC's fourth-highest rated scripted series in the 18-49 bracket and is one of the most digitally recorded shows for its first season.

American actress Christina Applegate.
American actress Christina Applegate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The show is largely inspired by Emily Spivey's own experience after giving birth and needing to return to work as a writer for Saturday Night Live. In this case, we meet Reagan (Christina Applegate) works as a producer for her best friend Ava (Maya Rudolph), who hosts a very popular women's talk show. Together with her husband Chris (Will Arnett), they start to discover just how different their life is now that they have a child together.

In addition, Chris has opted to become a stay-at-home dad, thus giving up his legal career for the sake of the baby. Thus as Reagan is learning to deal with juggling her job and her baby, Chris is coping with being 100% focused on the baby and no longer contributing to their household bottom line. And of course there's all the other fun stuff that comes with first time parents learning about all the quirks of babies and the acceptance that they can no longer party like they used to.

Now admittedly in the beginning the show was a little weird. As endearing the on-screen chemistry between Reagan and Chris tends to be, almost everything gets thrown out of whack by how over-the-top Maya Rudolph's Ava tends to be. I can accept a little eccentric quirkiness here and there, but I totally don't get where Ava is coming from during the first few episodes of the series. I mean seriously, she's crazy and not in a happy funny kind of way.

But overtime her character tones down a bit and thus lets the focus return to our little family unit. And beyond how well Applegate and Arnett are together, the fact that their characters are also firmly based in the 80's (given all the flashbacks and musical references), does add a fun degree of 1980's nostalgia to the show that gives it another entertainment dimension. And it does work for the most part.

Now it's not a laugh-until-you-cry kind of comedy series. It's funny, but more along the lines of how a lot of the situations they describe do seem familiar and relatable. Thus the humor is based in how real the stories are and credit has to be given to Spivey for clearly tapping her own experience and personal history in terms of the writing and direction of this show.

And the show has quite a number of interesting cameos from the likes of Jason Lee, Molly Shannon, Will Forte and even Megan Mullaly.

Up All Night isn't necessarily a great show just yet, but it is a good one that deserves a few more seasons to flesh out and allow for both characters and plotlines to mature. Thus I rate the first season a great 3.5 reasons to show the characters in 1980's attire out of a possible 5.

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