Up All Night Recap: ‘Parents’

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With all the time Up All Night has spent showing how obsessive a parent Reagan is, it was only a matter of time before her mom and dad were introduced to us to explain her mothering style. Guest stars Blythe Danner and Richard Schiff play Reagan’s mother and father, an author and a psychologist, respectively, and their overbearing nature accounts for the excessive care Reagan brings to her parenting duties.

“Parents” opens with Chris and Reagan at the computer when Chris receives a Skype request from Reagan’s parents. Reagan pressures Chris to ignore the call, but he gives in, fearing that Reagan’s dad can read his mind (“He’s a psychiatrist, not a psychic,” Reagan assures him). Reagan’s parents inform them that they’ll be visiting Southern California the next day to attend a party thrown by the UCLA Psych. Department to celebrate the release of Reagan’s mom’s new parenting book, Raising Daughter: The Journey of Motherhood.

Looking to connect with her mother, despite her abrasive and judgmental nature, Reagan attends the book party.  At the soiree, Reagan learns that her mother wrote extensively about Reagan’s awkward adolescence, including how she lost her virginity, and even including a humiliating picture of the two of them on the cover. Reagan’s mother’s speech is even more embarrassing for Reagan, causing her to tell her mom off and to retreat to her bedroom, lying face-down in her bed and blasting Depeche Mode. Reagan’s mom apologizes, asking her how she can be a better parent. They hug and make up, and Reagan’s mom earns some major points with her daughter by taking care of her baby granddaughter in the middle of the night so that Reagan can sleep.

The B-plot involves the aftermath of the death of a crew member on Ava’s talk show. Ava announces the passing of sound technician Dale to rest of the crew, delivering a eulogy that makes it blatantly obvious that she never knew who Dale was.  With Ava’s crew turning against her in the wake of her disastrous tribute to Dale, she sets out to pay her respects to him properly with an on-air memorial. Borrowing a hand gesture from Bill Clinton, Ava assigns Missy to find out as much information about Dale as she possible can. All Missy is able to dig up is a group photo of Dale with some other crew members and his W4 tax form, but Ava presses ahead nonetheless, airing a tribute video to Dale that only includes two images: the photo and the tax form.

Ever since Up All Night’s debut, the predominant complaint that TV critics have had about the show is that Maya Rudolph is often sidelined, with her story thread having little to do with each episode’s main plot. While the last new episode, “Birth,” did the best job yet of uniting all of the show’s central characters in one overarching story, this week’s slipped back into this same old problem. Maya Rudolph’s storyline made up for its disconnection from the main action, however, with her plot this week being one of the funniest the writers have given her character yet.

Bored to Death, another sitcom that began with a three-person cast that was equally small to Up All Night’s, didn’t hit its stride until late in its first season when the writers found a way to bring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson together. Up All Night has beefed up supporting characters like Jennifer Hall’s Missy and Nick Cannon’s Calvin, but the show’s three main stars, Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Maya Rudolph, are why viewers tune in. Bringing these three performers together has already accounted for some of the show’s best episodes so far, and finding organic ways for them to be in the same place each week will be the trick to Up All Night finding its footing.

Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.