Up All Night isn't the most innovative show on NBC on Thursday night. It isn't the funniest, it isn't the most original, it isn't the most willing to bend the normal constraints of what a sitcom can be. But within the boundaries of the 30-minute comedy, and well within the world of what we expect from our modern sitcoms, Up All Night is doing something special, telling the story of a couple we feel we know, in a stage of life that's all too rarely seen on TV. It's glossy and jokey and polished in a way most new sitcoms aren't, but Up All Night is the kind of throwback that also feels consistently, wonderfully new-- and it needs to be renewed for a second season by NBC so it can only continue getting better.
Maybe more important than anything else it has going for it, Up All Night boasts Will Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph in its cast, an embarrassment of comedy riches that makes the show a must-watch if only for seeing these actors share the same room. All of them are capable of comedy much wilder than this, but seeing them muted down to the level of real people makes the stakes even better, watching Rudolph fit her old SNL Oprah impression into the new character of Ava, or Applegate and Arnett create a genuinely believable marriage that allows for humor without breaking the rules of what might happen in real life.
it's silly to think of a sitcom as realistic, especially one that takes place in a house as ridiculously well-appointed as Chris and Regan's, but Up All Night frequently comes upon truths that don't come up in the rest of the NBC Thursday night lineup-- great as 30 Rock, Community, Parks & Recreation and even The Office continue to be, there's not a single relationship on any of them that feels as well-explored as Chris and Reagan's. Their attempts to stay young and interesting while also raising a kid are consistently funny, but also painful and real, especially in a time when first-time parents are getting older, and when adolescence extends up to and into your 30s.
I'm not exactly the target age range for Up All Night-- I'm not married, I don't have kids, I'm not quite 30 yet. But this show occupies such a specific corner of television for me, something that's full of talent and strong writing but also just the inescapable knowledge that this is what parenthood, or what feels like a far-off adulthood, might contain. I love visiting Chris and Reagan's happy marriage every week, or Reagan and Ava's complicated but ultimately loving work relationship, or just getting to spend time in their awesome house-- have you ever noticed that even the plates are coordinated with the overall decor of the house? Amazing. Up All Night is in this weird spot between actually exceptional television, which is where several of its Thursday night counterparts are, and comfort food TV, but that middle ground actually feels surprisingly daring all on its own.
So please, NBC, save Up All Night, and let us see how Chris and Reagan continue to deal with Amy, maybe when she's less of an adorable, silent baby but a talkative toddler. Let Maya Rudolph continue growing into her performance as Ava, let Jennifer Hall keep expanding her now main role as the loopy Missy, and leave room for more of the guest stars who actually make an impact, like Henry Winkler or the surprisingly mellow Jason Lee. It's not going to change television entirely in its second season, but it probably will just get better and better, and continue being the kind of comforting but sharp sitcom world that I love visiting again every week.
Should Up All Night be saved?