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Up All Night Recap: Sipping Vino

UP ALL NIGHT -- "Couple Friends" Episode 119 -- Pictured: (l-r) Will Arnett as Chris, Christina Applegate as Reagan, Ben Falcone as Justin, Nat Faxon as Lawrence -- Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC

Hi there, I'm filling in for Steve Heisler this week. I secured this gig after randomly proclaiming to a Vulture staffer that I am Up All Night’s biggest fan.  By which I really meant, I don’t know that many people who watch this show, but I enjoy it!  Up All Night feels light in a nice way – there are minimal stakes and agita — mostly because any issues or problems that the characters face tend to be resolved by the conclusion of each episode. If it’s stakes and stress you want, stay tuned for Awake, because that guy has some major problems that are definitively NOT being resolved anytime soon.  

Before I jump into the nineteenth episode of the season, can I just ask if anyone thinks that the Up All Night opening title sequence was inspired by the hilarious drunken photo montages on Cougar Town’s first season?  Because I do.

The main story line of this episode finds Reagan and Chris on the search for new couple-friends, after they abandon a plan for a night out dancing in a field to dubstep music with their never-seen young and hip friends, Tim and Caroline. So clearly Tim and Caroline don’t have kids. Reagan and Chris look amazing and dance hilariously in their bright-colored rave gear, but obviously have no interest in getting down to “a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London.” But before I could process the Downton Abbey reference at the end of the scene, they’re off to their neighbors’ house for a neighborhood watch meeting. And there, lo and behold, they meet new couple friends! No, not Gene and Terry, the square and matching hideous-shirt-wearing hosts, but the super cool gay couple Lawrence and Justin. Lawrence is played by recent Academy Award winner and The Descendants' screenwriter Nat Faxon, Justin is the husband of recent Academy Award nominee Melissa McCarthy and Bridesmaids’ scene stealer in his own right Ben Falcone. Up All Night must have an unlimited guest cast budget.

This couple-friends story line is a roller coaster — there’s the meet cute, the courtship, the bowling date in which Reagan and Justin both reveal themselves to be insanely competitive, the breakup, the make up, the second date, the discovery that Lawrence and Justin have a monster child (as Chris delicately puts it “Foster is an a-hole”) and lastly, the friendship-ending war of words over parenting tips. That’s not to say there aren’t some funny moments, but Faxon and Falcone don’t get all that much to do and the whole story arc goes by in a blur. Perhaps because the show only booked these guys for one episode, or to further prove that Reagan and Chris don’t really get along with other people? Either way, it is an impressive amount of plot accomplished in 22 minutes of program time.

Before I move onto the Ava story line, it’s worth noting that there are a ton of music references and songs in this episode. In addition to the aforementioned dubstep, the following are also name-checked: Phil Collins, "Night Moves," "You Look Wonderful Tonight," and "Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong." As Ava puts it, it's really “Rocktober” over at Up All Night. But I’m happy Phil Collins got a shout-out, he shouldn’t be eclipsed in the zeitgeist by his daughter, the seriously eye-browed Lily Collins, just yet. (Listen to “Find a Way To My Heart.  Still really solid!) But I digress.

Last week introduced Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) as Luke, ostensibly the new boss of the Ava Show, though I didn’t quite track how or why that transpired other than that the British lady–doctor from Nurse Jackie made a quick appearance as the new boss only to turn over the reins to him. I didn’t t love Luke last week — I couldn’t tell if it’s the actor or the character – and after tonight’s episode, I still can’t tell. There is some fem versus dude tension continuing at the office, so when Luke mentions he has a card game with the Southern affiliates to try to get them to give the Ava Show the 3 p.m. time slot, he tells Ava and Reagan he can handle it. Naturally, Ava then crashes said poker game, and naturally she is the one who wins over the affiliates. Girl power! Ava charms the men by razzing them and Luke is impressed so he asks her out for a celebratory drink. Then, as if the writer’s room decided they needed the two story lines to intersect, Ava shows up out of the blue at the bowling double date.  But it’s worth it because she brings some funny lines along with her— and also because later she refers to the fight she witnessed between Reagan and Justin as a “bowling alley tragedy.” Which it was. Maybe not in the Serena Williams U.S. Open foot fault category of tantrums, but a pretty ugly foot fault blow out in  its own right. 

Out at drinks, Luke hits on Ava, which spawns the best line of the episode — “I thought we were having a successful business relationship. I thought the same thing with Suge Knight and Ira Glass. You guys are all alike.” But it turns out that Luke wasn’t really hitting on Ava, he was trying to make his ex-fiancée — the bartender — jealous. Good twist? Ava does Luke a favor and pretends to kiss him. So this — and the tampon references — make for some continued, subversive girl power on this show, or something.

All in all, an okay episode. And for the record, time is healing my annoyance at the Up All Night team for getting rid of the surprisingly good Jason Lee character Kevin off screen or in between episodes. With only a few episodes left in the season, some questions remain: As recapper Steve has previously questioned, how come Ava’s fame level seems to change from scene to scene? How can dorky neighbor Gene be so bad if he says gems like this: “I had an ulcerated esophagus. It’s often caused by herpes. Mine wasn’t.” Where’s baby Amy almost all of the time? Will Reagan and Chris ever have friends besides the other series' regulars? Or can Reagan and Chris only really get along with each other? Aw.     

Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC