Friday, September 16, 2011

Pilot Inspektor Tim: Up All Night

The show: Up All Night, Wednesdays on NBC

The premise in ten words or less? New parents, the mom works as a talk show producer.

Any good? Comedy pilots are rough. That might sound like the prelude to a vicious takedown or a way to excuse a show I didn't laugh much at, but it's neither. It's just the reality of the situation. Arrested Development and Party Down had funny pilots, but Community, which has evolved into the best show currently on television (comedy or drama, network or cable) and one of the best works of comedy ever produced in any medium, had a pilot that failed to make me bellow with laughter at any point, as did Parks and Recreation. So much of enjoying a sitcom lies in getting attuned to its pulse, absorbing the rhythm and quirks of its characters, and letting the writers get comfortable enough to experiment and surprise you, and for any showrunner to accomplish that in 22 minutes is a Herculean feat.

So no, at no point during Up All Night, in which Will Arnett and Christina Applegate play new parents, did I tilt my head back and let out a satisfying roar from the gut. I did chuckle a number of times, if nothing else thanks to the comedic application of bleeped out swears, something that has continually made me laugh ever since Arrested Development. But speaking of that hallowed show, one relieving way that Up All Night actually differs from it is that, unlike in Running Wilde and most of the other comedies he's appeared in over the last decade, Will Arnett is NOT playing Gob Bluth here. He's a new, mellowed out man who actually bears resemblance to a human person, which is at this point a novelty.

Now, there's no lack of generic "baby pooped," "baby won't stop crying" and "baby won't sleep" jokes here, which don't really impress outside of the actors giving it their all, but the bigger problem is Christina Applegate's job. This is that rare sitcom that seems to equally follow the home and work lives of its hero, and (at least in the pilot) the two halves don't quite mesh. Maya Rudolph showed that she's got comic chops in Bridesmaids, but as Christina Applegate's wacky boss and host of the talk show they work at together she feels overly broad and hammy thus far.

Still, the show has room to grow and they've done a good job casting it with talented comic actors. In Arrested Development Will Arnett made me laugh as hard as I've ever laughed at any film or TV show in my life, so I figure he deserves a shot.

Will I watch again? I'll give it at least a few more episodes to see if it can iron out the kinks with Christina Applegate's job and kick up the laugh quotient a bit. But all the generic baby humor caused me to violently eject Raising Hope from my viewing schedule after a few episodes last fall, and this show certainly threatens to tread the same path. Fingers crossed.

Premise: B-

Execution: B

Performances: B+

Potential: B


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