June 2, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Disclaimer:  Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall.  Pilots are often reedited and rescored, and in some cases even recast or reshot.  So these critiques shouldn’t be taken as full reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
UP ALL NIGHT –  Wednesday 8PM on NBC:  Potential DVR Alert.
High-profile casts seem like a great idea every pilot season–Lord knows, the studios and networks pay enough to get those stars on their air–but the track record of their shows is no better than anyone else’s.  Matthew Perry in Mr. Sunshine? Jim Belushi in The Defenders? Jimmy Smits in Outlaw?  Not so much.  And more to the point, Will Arnett in Running Wilde and Christina Applegate in Samantha Who?  Again, nowhere to be found.  So the fact that Applegate and Arnett would both be starring in NBC’s new UP ALL NIGHT, with Maya Rudolph to boot, was not in itself necessarily good news.
The good news is that the show works.   Up All Night‘s writer is Emily Spivey, who hails from Parks & Recreation, and the pilot directed by James Griffiths has a similarly low-key, likable feel (it’s miles away from the same network’s Whitney, which mystifyingly is being programmed with the main NBC comedy block).  As ever with TV comedy, it’s not the premise that really matters, and Up All Night‘s is very basic:  Applegate and Arnett are a yuppie couple who’ve been consumed with their careers and social life, and when they have an unplanned baby, their lives have to change.  Applegate goes back to work (in public relations, with Rudolph as her best friend and boss), while Arnett serves as stay-at-home dad.
Originality isn’t the point here–we’ve all seem the gag about new parents ineptly changing a diaper before.  What makes Up All Night a little different is that the reason the couple is having such trouble with the diaper is that they’re horribly hung over from the night before, and even more the tone of the sequence, which doesn’t push the physical comedy into cartoon.  Arnett and Applegate aren’t idiots in the show, just out of their depth, and on some level their characters get the joke of their own mistakes.
Not pushing too hard seems to be a byword for the show.  Both Arnett and Rudolph have been known to head straight for the broadest possible comic effects in their other work–and Rudolph’s role in particular is a license to chew scenery–but they keep their performances modulated and close to naturalistic, matching Applegate’s style.  It turns out this works for a family comedy as well as it does in an office setting.
Up All Night has issues–it needs some more characters beside the 3 leads and Applegate’s office assistant (Arnett’s character can’t just sit at home in every episode), and it’ll have to expand its jokes beyond unexpected parenthood.  It’s also in a tough timeslot, being asked to open a new night of comedy for NBC against The Middle on ABC, as well as duelling reality events Survivor and X-Factor; Mitch Metcalf’s projection puts it in last place in the slot.  (This is where having big promotable names in your show can help.)  But creatively, Up All Night is already doing a lot of things right–and the advantage of being on NBC is that any rating short of absolute disaster may be enough for it to stay on the air for a while.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."