Up All Night stars Will Arnett and Christina Applegate as a married couple struggling to adapt to life with a newborn. Chris, played by Arnett, quits his job at a law firm to be a stay-at-home (and out of place) dad, while Applegate’s Reagan heads back to work as a talk-show producer. Of course, comedy ensues when all he wants to do is play videogames and she is distracted at work thanks to constant worrying over Amy, the baby. The hijinks that could follow might prove to be comedy gold. Unfortunately, the writers of this newborn comedy are as unprepared for a show as Chris and Reagan are for a child.
It’s not to say the show doesn’t have potential; in fact, it most certainly proved to be entertaining— just not as laugh-out-loud funny as NBC sitcoms have established they could be. Watching Arnett’s character deal with the tasks of being a stay-at-home dad are irresistibly clever and relatable. Chris is on grocery duty, but he panics and can’t find the “normal cheese.” Though the scene feels rushed thanks to him freaking out over an elderly lady finding Amy cute, it resonates with that “Oh, yeah—that’s happened to me” feeling.
Chris also bonds with another stay-at-home dad over Xbox Live, but the subplot never goes anywhere. If the writers are smart they’ll keep that recurring to keep Arnett’s scenes dynamic, because as this episode progressed it seemed that most of his scenes will either be with the baby or with his wife.
Reagan, however, received most of the screentime for the parenting duo. In her return as a producer, she is greeted by her friend and host of the talk show, Ava, played by a scene-stealing Maya Rudolph. Their interactions aren’t yet hilarious, but they have the potential for building into ones reminiscent of Liz and Jack on 30 Rock. It’s clear Ava has missed Reagan and wants their relationship to stay as carefree as it was pre-baby. She shows up late at night with champagne and begs the couple to drink. Then on Chris and Reagan’s seventh wedding anniversary, Ava forces Reagan to stay late at work making the couple cancel their big plans.
Ava seems to have an awful lot to do with the plot. Her antics cause the couple to go out late on an impromptu date for their anniversary, which produces rapid-fire scenes of them at a bar drinking and singing karaoke. Chris wants to do the responsible thing and go home, but who shows up? Ava, with bottle in hand and ready to keep the new parents away from their baby. It played like a scene straight out of The Hangover but without the R-rated antics.
Regardless of the shaky first plot, all the acting in Up All Night feels natural. The chemistry between Arnett and Applegate is spot-on and isn’t forced like on Arnett’s last show Running Wilde with Keri Russell. As already noted, Rudolph has the potential to be the Kramer or Barney Stinson of the show, and producers might follow her more closely to keep the viewers coming back for her character. The most head-scratching character was played by Nick Cannon, who popped up as the emcee for the talk show for all of five seconds. NBC’s site for the sitcom has him listed as one of the top billed actors. Cannon’s character was a late addition to the show when the producers realized they needed one more central character, and he is surely slotted for a major role.
For a show about parenting, it seems the writers are going to focus more on Reagan’s work life as opposed to on a married couple’s journey, which is what it has been marketed as. It could become a struggle of identity for the show that they might want to solve before we get too deep into the season. In a true first episode ending, focus is brought back on Chris and Reagan, who end up realizing that every aspect of their life is going to change and how happy they are about it.