Review: Up All Night 1×1

Two rights do make a wrong

Up All Night

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, NBC

A common question asked is “Do two wrongs make a right?” Here’s my question: “Do two rights make a wrong?”

Because here we have the very right Will Arnett (30 Rock, Arrested Development, Running Wilde) and the very right Christina Applegate (Married With Children, Samantha Who?) in a sitcom about having a baby.

Yes, that’s right. That’s what it’s about. That’s not just a fact about Applegate’s and Arnett’s characters. This is the intended main source of all the show’s humour.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have children. Nevertheless, I can confidently say, through simple osmosis, I know just as much as these two characters about raising kids, if not more, and apparently have just as much insight as the writers.

Here’s a trailer that contains the funny bits. You’ll notice that since the pilot, Christina Applegate’s character has switched from PR person to talk show host assistant.

“Up All Night,” created by Emily Spivey (NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and “Saturday Night Live”) and executive produced by Lorne Michaels (NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock”), is an irreverent look at modern parenthood.

Christina Applegate (“Samantha Who?”) stars as Reagan Brinkley: loving wife, successful career woman, life of the party and, most recently, mom. Determined not to compromise her career or cool reputation to the cliches of motherhood, Reagan adjusts to life with a baby and returns to work with the support of her stay-at-home husband, Chris (Will Arnett, “Arrested Development”). As Reagan and Chris figure out their new life, self-doubt, sleep deprivation and the pressure of today’s parenting protocols rattle their confidence. What’s more, the endless needs of Reagan’s boss, ambitious but vulnerable talk-show host Ava (Maya Rudolph, “Saturday Night Live,” “Bridesmaids”), threaten to throw Reagan off balance.

“Up All Night” is a Broadway Video and Universal Media Studios production. Along with Michaels and Spivey, Jon Pollack (“30 Rock”) and Erin David (“Saturday Night Live”) serve as executive producers. Christina Applegate, Eric Kranzler and Andrew Singer are producers.

Is it any good?
There are actually quite a few good moments in it, most of them not involving the baby, most of them due to Arnett and Applegate’s performances.

Largely, this is exactly what you’d expect from an average sitcom about a couple who have a baby and which is called Up All Night – two people new to parenting (as well as, apparently, books, American culture, other parents et al) discover that babies cry a lot at night, that they need a lot of attention and that you can’t go out partying any more once you have one.

Was that news to anyone? No, me neither. Observational comedy is one thing, but it’s only funny if someone’s failed to point out the observation 10 or 20 times already.

A slight twist is that Arnett is the stay-at-home dad, Applegate the one with the career. While that’s welcome at least, having the former high-flying male lawyer spend all day watching hockey and gaming with other fathers isn’t. Trying to find things in a vast supermarket? That I can empathise with, though.

The talk show set-up for Applegate’s career is less welcome. It’s not in any sense realistic and while it does raise a few laughs, it’s more at the silliness of it all. And it’s not entirely clear why “assistant to the talk show host” should earn more than a lawyer, whereas you can imagine a PR to the stars would earn a whole lot more.

It’s not without merits, and there are plenty of points where you can identify with the two characters, but it’s not well written enough to be the new Community, 30 Rock or anything else, except perhaps the new “slightly funnier Parenthood“. It’s a shame because Arnett and Applegate are a good comedy pairing and I really wanted this to succeed, given how quickly their comedies tend to disappear off the screens these days.

Better luck next time, guys.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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