It’s a big week for Up All Night, as the show received a full season pickup on Tuesday, along with fellow NBC sitcom Whitney. Up All Night is very much in its early stages, and, like most sitcoms in their first few episodes, it’s still finding its footing. The good news means that the show will have 18 episodes left in its season from this point forward, giving it plenty of time to figure out how all of its pieces fit together. As in previous weeks, last night’s Up All Night found strength in its likeable stars Christina Applegate, Maya Rudolph, and Will Arnett, giving them material that’s suited well to their respective performing styles.
“New Car” begins with Reagan and Chris preparing to take a beach trip with their infant daughter, but they’re unable to fit all of the necessary gear into Reagan’s compact convertible. Realizing that this isn’t the best car for child rearing, they set out to buy a new vehicle. The pair’s aversion to the uncool minivan lifestyle of their dorky neighbors Gene and Terry and their need to stay edgy and hip leads Reagan and Chris to browse through kitschy retro cars like the DeLorean from Back to the Future and a van that reminds them of The A-Team. After a few too many glasses of wine, Chris and Reagan awake to having bought the aforementioned van off of the Internet.
Quickly realizing that the A-Team van isn’t a practical car for people to own, Chris and Reagan pick out a “mom car” that they’re horrified to find matches that of their nemeses: neighbors Gene and Terry (played by Matt Braunger and Jean Villepique). Making their second appearance tonight, Gene and Terry are worthy adversaries to Reagan and Chris. They’re the boring couple that Chris and Reagan are actively fighting to avoid becoming each week and it’s important to have them around as a reminder of what Chris and Reagan’s lives could be like. At the episode’s end, Chris surprises Reagan at work by showing her the new car he picked out. It’s the dreaded “mom car,” but a spruced-up version that’s a different color and has tinted windows, a cool design on the side, and new rims. Reagan is overjoyed with Chris’s modifications to the car and comes to terms with driving an uncool vehicle.
Maya Rudolph is sidelined in the episode’s B-plot, which involves her character Ava trying to prove how her lack of education hasn’t made her any less intelligent by inviting an economist onto the show to discuss his new book. After a procrastination run that would put any college stoner to shame, Ava has no choice but to ask Chris to explain the book to her. He does well enough, leading her to come across as well-read during her interview with the economist. Ava even goes one step further and manages to coax the economist into crying over the abuse he suffered in the locker room as an adolescent, making for some gripping daytime TV.
Up All Night has defined itself as a show about two new parents struggling to balance the responsibilities that starting a family entails with their former identities as hip young people. Each week, the show has offered up a new riff on some aspect of their lives that Chris and Reagan have had to change (partying, dressing seductively, their choice in cars), and there’s an ample amount of territory left to cover in this arena. One of the show’s main problems is that Reagan’s work life and home life are so far removed from one another. In last night’s episode, for example, the two plotlines never fully intersected or worked together, but, with plenty left to explore in the two amusing worlds the show has created and an excellent cast to back the material up, it’s only a matter of time before the writers nail down a winning formula.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.