There are often moments when I’m watching family-based sitcoms where I think to myself, “I’d sure like to get married and have a baby.” Not out of some personal need, but in an attempt to understand what exactly is so nightmarishly horrible about it. Because that’s basically the premise of many, if not most, sitcoms: marriage crushes your spirit, having kids destroys your soul. And do not even get me started on those succubi they call our in-laws! Maybe family life is secretly a fiendish pit of despair, but in the meantime I’d like the fantasize that it is as hopeful as Up All Night, though if it was actually funnier…that would be nice too.
Premiering last night, Up All Night follows first time parents Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Will Arnett) as they settle into the new normal with infant Amy (one of the fattest, cutest baby of all time). The striking thing about the show’s central relationship is the relationship between the central couple. Applegate and Arnett…actually seem to like each other. They have chemistry, which doesn’t seem like such a high benchmark, until you think of another sitcom couple who you truly felt would exist in real life. How many come to mind? The couple’s realistic relationship balances out the more sitcom-y elements of the show (Will Arnett is the only actor who could make not being able to find cheese in a grocery store remotely relatable), and so far no one has lost their minds of some tiny perceived slight (thought I was worried when I saw Reagan spot the fancy cheese Chris had bought in desperation). Instead of getting into a fight after Reagan has to bail on their anniversary plans, they opt to get foolishly drunk and go to karaoke.
The other reason to watch the show is, of course, Maya Rudolph as Ava, Reagan’s Oprah-esque boss. While Rudolph is currently playing her as a down-to-earth TV goddess, I suspect she’s going to start racketing up the divaness as the show goes on. Not Tracy Jordan-crazy, but certainly crazier. That’s really what we want to see anyway, isn’t it? I could have watched her sing Raining Men for an entire season.
So the cast is strong, the set-up believable, all the elements are in play except for, well, the jokes. The show seemed focused on making the couple realistic, to the detriment of the laffs. Not that there weren’t some great moments.”This is the wipe string that the wipe people do to make you buy more wipes,” an exhausted, hungover Arnett snarls as he scrambles amongst the baby’s diaper things. Later he exhaustedly wonders aloud, “Are we dead?” I also hope they play up Ava’s rivalry with Ellen. God, what a sweet cameo that would eventually be. Will eventually be, if the show keeps heading in the right direction, which I suspect that it will.