September 21, 2012



UP ALL NIGHT:  Thursday 8:30PM on NBC

WHERE WE WERE:  Watching a show about Reagan Brinkley (Christina Applegate), who struggled to produce her best friend Ava’s (Maya Rudolph) afternoon TV talk show while adjusting to parenting daughter Amy with stay-at-home lawyer husband Chris (Will Arnett).

WHERE WE ARE:  In a somewhat different show.  Up All Night was the most marginal of successes in its first season, which is to say its ratings were so low (2.4 average, and that includes its high-rated early airings), it would likely have been canceled on any network but NBC.  Airing on the Peacock, it got a second chance, clearly on the condition that major changes be made.  So Night has essentially reversed its initial concept.  Ava’s talk show is abruptly canceled in the season premiere, written by series creator Emily Spivey and Executive Producer Tucker Cawley, and directed by Michael Blieden.  Reagan decides not to pursue another job but to stay at home and raise Amy.  Conversely, Chris decides to go back to outside-the-home work, running the contracting business of Reagan’s brother Scott (new regular Luka Jones).

The result was a season premiere that was more or less a re-pilot, and whether all of these changes are going to work will have to be gauged over the early part of this season.   For example, the character of Scott, although he had plenty of screen time in the episode, is very vague for the moment.   It was also unclear whether the producers understood that Reagan and Chris’ constant whining about how “cool” they used to be before parenthood, as they looked down on everyone else in their path, was getting tiresome–or if there just wasn’t any room for those gags in a half-hour loaded with new exposition.

We can say this much, though:  the new version of Up All Night is actually 3.0, since there was an unaired original pilot in which Reagan and Ava were partners in a PR business rather than working on a TV show.  The series is, yet again, working overtime to try and combine two fundamentally different shows into one:  a relatively naturalistic comedy featuring Applegate and Arnett as parents, and an over-the-top slapsticky one about Applegate and Rudolph as wacky buddies.  (It’s not entirely clear what Rudolph’s character will be doing in this new incarnation, but she remains a series regular.)   If it takes this much sweat to try and make those shows mesh, maybe they’re not meant to be joined.  Rudolph is a tremendous talent, but her style here seems shipped in from a different kind of comedy than everyone else’s, and her character disrupts the easy flow between Arnett and Applegate whenever she makes an appearance.

The bar is very low for Up All Night, which will be facing off against 2 1/2 Men on CBS with no chance of winning, and NBC is clearly committed to trying to make the series work.  (Given the quality of the network’s midseason comedies, they should be.)  The early signs, however, are that Spivey & Company may not yet have figured it out.


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."