During its first season, Up All Night seemed to revamp itself every few episodes as it tried to strike the right balance between being a domestic comedy about two new parents and a workplace sitcom set at an Oprah-like daytime talk show. In its second season premiere, the show went through one last (I hope) reboot, abandoning the talk show angle once and for all and bringing it all back home, seemingly for good.
The episode began with Reagan and Chris in the process of remodeling their bathroom to replace their standard-issue tub with a Jacuzzi. You might think this would give Jason Lee's handyman Kevin (one of the guest star bright spots of Season 1) a regular storyline, but no, he's mysteriously gone yet again, this time replaced by Reagan's previously unseen brother, Scott (new series regular Luka Jones). Reagan's just taken a sledgehammer to the bathroom tile when Ava bursts in screaming that her show has been cancelled. The rest of the episode is given over to establishing the status quo for Season 2, with Reagan making the decision to stay home, Ava trying to decide what to do next and Chris briefly returning to his law office gig before deciding that what he really wants to do is open a contracting business with the affable, but esteem-challenged, Scott. Because the writers had to do a lot of heavy lifting to get the new set-up in order, the premiere was long on exposition and light on comedy, a balance that will hopefully shift back now that the new premise is firmly in place. But will more viewers turn into Up All Night Version
2.0 3.0 4.0? Here's what's good and bad about the latest version of the sitcom.
The Good: More Family Time
One of the main reasons why Up All Night ranked among my favorites of last fall's crop of pilots was the way it captured the mundane details of new parenthood in a funny, relatable fashion. The writers actually seemed familiar with the joys and headaches of having an infant -- unlike the scribes over on Guys With Kids. It helped, too, that Christina Applegate and Will Arnett sparked to each other from the jump, playing Reagan and Chris as a fun-loving couple struggling to adjust to their new reality. That dynamic that was lost as the focus shifted over to the Ava show and Chris was left by his lonesome. Now that the talk show is gone with the wind and Chris will presumably be running the contracting business from their house, there should be more opportunities for the Applegate & Arnett comedy team to work their considerable magic. As an added bonus, it also means the show won't need to keep Molly Shannon around as the baby's nanny, which is just fine by me.
The Bad: Will Arnett's Extreme Makeover, Weight Loss Edition
Well, now we have a possible explanation for why Arnett and Amy Poehler broke up: she didn't recognize him anymore. In between seasons, Arnett hit the gym and lost a ton of weight. Good on him and all, but he now looks like a completely different person... one who really needs to add some meat back onto his bones. (We're not quite at Christian Bale-in-The Machinest territory yet, fortunately.) I'm sure we'll all adjust to his new appearance, but I have to admit to spending much of the premiere doing a double-take every time he appeared on screen.
The Good: Ava Unchained
Maya Rudolph scored the night's biggest laugh when Ava, looking to piss Reagan off, started kissing random babies on the playground. That's the kind of kooky comic material that Rudolph excels at; towards the end of last season, the writers got bogged down in Ava's boring relationship problems and backstage power struggles at her show. Cutting her loose from all that and setting her on a quest for a new gig gives the writers a wealth of new storylines to play with that would make better use of Rudolph's skills. I know I'm rooting for another Ava/B-Ro track.
The Bad: No More Missy
The end of the Ava show does unfortunately mean that we had to say farewell to Jennifer Hall as Reagan's eccentric assistant Missy, one of the first season's most reliable sources of laughs. There was probably no good way to keep her around, but we're hoping for a few guest spots before Hall lands another gig. On the other hand, no more Ava guarantees that Nick Cannon is gone for good, so yay for that.
Could Go Either Way: The New Guy
It's hard to get a sense from the premiere how Luka Jones will fit in to the established ensemble; he's aiming for the same low-key comic persona Jason Lee brought to Kevin, but doesn't have Lee's pleasantly offbeat timing. (I'm also desperately hoping that the writers avoid hooking Ava and Scott up, which would be a bad move on a number of levels.) Still, he's not an overtly irritating presence and he and Arnett have the potential to establish a nice comic rapport. I won't be tuning in specifically to watch him, but he's not going to drive me away either. No, I'm sticking with this show until it ends for good or reboots itself to the point where the last character left standing is the baby girl... whichever comes first.
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