E: You know this is hard for me, so I’m just going to come out and say it: this show was funny.
And, um, I liked it.
And yes, I know it is a sitcom.
Now, don’t get ahead of yourself. I could easily be sick of it soon; I really enjoyed the premiere of the similarly themed (but astoundingly different) Raising Hope last year and actually watched it for a month before getting tired of it. But what feels different is that Up All Night isn’t trying too hard for my laughter. I don’t like that whiff of desperation, but leads Christina Applegate and Will Arnett are far too cool for that, and I appreciate that. From the early scene of Applegate’s Reagan and Arnett’s Chris watching their baby sleeping, astounded by her beauty and unable to stop their inappropriate (and bleeped) cursing? I laughed. Out loud, even. Mr. E, who wasn’t planning on watching, stayed.
The basic premise of the show; uber-successful party people Chris and Reagan find out they’re pregnant. Surprise! It’s the end of the world as you know it! But, Reagan suggests, maybe it’s not all bad. Now she will have someone to visit her in the nursing home during her long widowhood. (No, Chris doesn’t look any older than she does. Men die first.) But when baby Amy is perhaps 6 months old, Reagan returns to her job as a producer on the Oprah-esque talk show Ava, where she alone can sooth the querulous host (overplayed a bit by Maya Rudolph) and provide good ideas for shows. Chris, on the other hand, has quit his law practice to stay home with Amy, and spends his day bonding with a thus far unseen stay at home dad at the park, playing videogames, and giving odd pep talks to his perky little daughter. And, of course, nobody sleeps at night. How will Reagan and Chris function? What will happen to their old club-loving selves? Can their marriage survive the strain of their competing exhaustions? Which parent has it worse?
So, sure, I found the scene – played in many commercials – where diva boss Ava shows up with a wildly inappropriate baby gift basket (“Venison stock! Babies love this!”) a bit tedious. And you’d think that with all the partying and the late hours, they’d be used to the sleep deprivation. But mostly, when I was supposed to, I laughed. I loved Chris and Reagan’s argument about who’d been up longer with Amy and how each one knew (“because MY. EYES. WERE. OPEN.”) not merely because it was funny, but because of the parts where it wasn’t funny, and because in all parts it felt true. Maybe because I have had that argument? What I particularly liked is that the show wasn’t straining for the obvious laugh every second. It’s played straight, like the characters don’t always know they’re being funny; they’re not trying too hard to be wacky eccentrics. It feels fresh and modern, and I wasn’t sure that was possible with this premise. Will Arnett, who often annoys me, doesn’t here. And Kelly Bundy has transformed into Ava’s Girl Friday, the calm, grown up one who can fix any mess.
And all that means I’m likely to be in for another week at least. Maybe I’ll report back in October, just to see if I’ve kept it up.
Now excuse me while I go change a diaper.