Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Up All Night

Up All Night
Episode 10: First Snow
Episode 11: The Wedding
By: Carlos Uribe

Up All Night is a show about two new parents. I will not be covering this show weekly.

Spoilers Ahoy!

At the beginning of the season, I vowed to review basically the second season as a whole when it ended. Since that time, the terrible news that this single-camera show was going multi-camera made the news rounds. According to some sources, these are the final single-camera episodes. I'll be reviewing the season so far and then I'll come back at the end of the season to talk about how drastically changing the format either ruined or improved the show. This is because changing the style of the show is going to turn it into a completely different show. It can be said that Up All Night has had three different eras. There was the first season, where the workplace was a huge component of the show. The second era was at the beginning of this season when it dropped the Ava show and primarily became a family comedy. The third era will begin when the show comes back this season. So how was the second era? Was it better or was it worse? Did it solve any problems or did it simply create new ones? Did Up All Night become a must-watch Thursday night comedy like the rest of the NBC lineup? The answer to that is sadly no.

The primary reason being that the second season of this show is just as funny as the first. This is to say that most episodes are good for a chuckle or two but simply aren't consistently funny. A lot of the humor of this show is supposed to be grounded but it rarely translates into laughs. I don't like to compare shows but Up all Night reminds me of Ben and Kate. The two shows have relatable characters that love each other and are generally very sweet. The two shows are built around characters who come together to help raise a child. On Up all Night, it's the husband and wife team of Chris and Reagan along with Reagan's brother, Scott. On Ben and Kate, it's single mother Kate, her brother Ben, and their friends pitch in and help. The two shows don't just share a similar premise, the general tone, and the realistic characters but Ben and Kate also employs grounded humor, although it's more willing to go into full comedy mode. The huge difference is that Ben and Kate is able to be funny whether it's jokes are based on reality, like the u-turn from the pilot, or not. It's never really struggled with tone and it knows what to do with it's characters. In other words, Ben and Kate is Up All Night if it was done right from the beginning. That Up All Night is still struggling to be consistently funny and plagued with many of the same issues as the first season is simply disappointing. It's had enough time to figure it out but it simply remains an elusive puzzle for the writers.

Need any evidence? What does Ava do in First Snow? She doesn't have the Ava Show which means that the only connection she has left with the Brinkleys is her friendship with Reagan. There's nothing wrong with that but just about every plot regarding Ava has dealt with two things. It's either explored how the loss of the show has impacted her or it's been about her being friends with Reagan. First Snow combines the two when Ava tries to figure out a cost-effective present to give Reagan. The only reason Ava can't go all-out is because she doesn't have an income. This was fine for the first few episodes of the season but it's all this show does with the character. Compare that to Chris: he's a single father, loving husband, and an owner of his own business. The show is able to use all of these to come up with varied stories from one week to the next. The show is able to properly utilize his character along with Reagan. Ava simply remains like an afterthought in many cases. She's so separated from the show that she is rarely involved in the main plot. This wouldn't be a problem if her sub-plots weren't consistently the weakest part of every episode.

What makes matters worse is how Scott has been fitting into the show. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that he remains relatively undeveloped. While I can generally predict what he's going to say based on his archetype, I don't really feel like I know him. This is primarily because we were never properly introduced to him but also because the show really hasn't fleshed him out very well. When it does concentrate on him, it largely deals with him being a divorced father but it doesn't use that to reveal anything new about his internal character. We might know more about his history but he largely remains a stranger to me. The second reason is that he feels even more forced in than Ava. It might be just the actor's awkwardness but it never really feels like the show knows how to use him at all. Scott is such an important presence this season but the show's treatment towards him makes him feel more like a minor support player than a main character. This just makes it jarring since the series presents him as a main character.

When the second season had begun, it had gotten rid of the Ava show. This was good as the workplace element of the show often didn't fit the tone the series was going for. Sadly, it hasn't found a way to actually implement Ava in the show. The second season also retooled the show by introducing Reagan's brother Scott but he still doesn't feel like he belongs in the show. It is very well possible that the writers will be able to actually fix the problems of the show when it goes multi-camera but the problem lies deeper than the format of the show. The problem is that the writers simply haven't been able to figure out how to crack out a comedy.

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