By Bethany McHugh
When NBC released initial promos for “Up All Night,“ excitement built for the return of Christina Applegate to television, and the return of Will Arnett for yet another chance on network TV. “Up All Night” tells the story of new parents Regan and Chris, and their struggle to adjust to life with their baby, while simultaneously dealing with another “baby” in their lives – Ava (Maya Rudolph), the star of the talk show Regan produces.
Applegate’s last comedy “Samantha Who?” demonstrated her proclivity for comedy. Unfortunately the show was cancelled to soon, as was “Arrested Development,” Will Arnett’s break out role. The two actors have proven that they are formidable talents, and the casting of them as a pair was a brilliant move, evident in how well they work together in this episode.
For a pilot, their scenes together are relatively strong, constructed in such a way that their relationship is clearly defined. The couple is very much in love, and has certainly enjoyed their fair share of nights spent partying, but all that has suddenly changed. Chris (Arnett) has taken the role of stay-at-home dad so that Regan (Applegate) can continue her successful career. What was not brilliant was unexpectedly beefing up Rudolph’s Ava in the 11th hour before the premiere, unfortunately distracting from the exceptional chemistry between Applegate and Arnett.
The pilot was widely publicized to have changed Rudolph’s character to allow the comedian’s unique style to shine. Perhaps the quick need to reshoot these scenes is responsible for the rough editing, but thus far Rudolph is more distracting than hilarious. With the right material, the character could be a fun addition to the two main players. But her scenes in the pilot lack the charm and humor of the rest of the episode. Ava, for now, comes off as underdeveloped, and her exact relationship with Regan, both in their work and personal lives, is unclear. Hopefully the longer production time for future episodes will address these issues.
That being said, the “Up All Night” has a relatively strong pilot. Arnett has a large amount of potential for growth, in a role that appears to play to his strengths. Applegate’s Regan is set up for a number of potential high-stress – and ultimately, hilarious – situations that will prove to audiences who missed the actress’ previous work what a true talent she is. As for Rudolph, all that audiences can hope for is that if the show has the opportunity to continue and improve, the writers will work out exactly how they want to use her as more than simply a decent Oprah/Ellen impression. If “Up All Night” can find its footing in the coming episodes, the show may just end up being worth waiting up all night for.
Bethany McHugh is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.