The broadcast networks have more than 30 shows debuting this fall, including Steven Spielberg’s dino-mite Terra Nova, J.J. Abrams’ Person of Interest, and a U.S. adaptation of the UK’s Prime Suspect. To help you prep for fall, TVLine is offering First Impressions based on the not-for-review pilots. Next on our list is…
THE SHOW | NBC’s Up All Night (Wednesdays at 8/7c, starting Sept. 21; sneak preview Sept. 14 at 10pm)
THE COMPETITION | Fox’s The X Factor (new), CBS’ Survivor, ABC’s The Middle and The CW’s H8R (new)
THE CAST | Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?), Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids) and James Pumphrey
THE SET-UP | Applegate and Arnett play Reagan (aka “Ray”) and Chris, happily marrieds who within the first seconds of the pilot learn they have a baby on the way. One quick cut later, newborn Amy is warming their hearts… and turning their heretofore organized lives upside-down. Rudolph is Ava, Reagan’s hard-partying, living-large boss at the PR firm where she works, while Pumphrey is Ray’s assistant.
THE GOOD | As a father, I can attest that there is absolutely a single-camera comedy to be made about new parents discovering how the responsibility of raising a baby forces change and compromise into their marital and professional existences — and Up All Night does a good job of hitting several easy targets from the get-go. Applegate, a brand-new first-time mom herself at the time this was shot, wears the role well, while Arnett has once of his best (and better-modulated) roles since 30 Rock. Rudolph’s Ava, if a bit broadly drawn, offers good contrast, reminding Reagan how her devil-may-care life used to be.
THE… COULD-BE-BETTER | As said above, Up All Night covers a lot of ground in its premiere — perhaps too much. Dad’s first time braving the grocery aisles, the first Date Night conflict, the first babysitter, Ray’s first choice between work and home, the first time they stay out way too late to party way too hard, Chris’ self-loathing over being an Xbox-playing, Nordic Track-ignoring stay-at-home parent…. It is all in here; pace yourselves, people. Ava is very self-centered, which I “get” is the joke, but it also makes you wonder how she and Reagan became besties. If you take a drink each time a character sarcastically lobs the word “awesome,” you’ll be dead 18 minutes in. The show needs more cast members.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | NBC took a bath in this time slot a year ago (with the short-lived Undercovers), then tried to duct-tape things with Minute to Win It, so I admire their pluck in looking to launch a new comedy night. But up against the sure-to-be-buzzy X Factor and ABC’s surging The Middle (with its own frazzled parents), baby Amy might not be the only one crying. That said, I do hope Up All Night finds some footing, because first-time parenthood is funny stuff.