Thursday, September 15, 2011

UP ALL NIGHT: The Problem With A Good Lead In

is that it gives the series an artificially inflated rating that it cannot possibly sustain (the makers of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior are likely pointing and laughing at Up All Night, and not because of the humor).  On Wednesday night, September 14, 2011, the first true network scripted TV shows premiered.  Up All Night and Free Agents (NBC) aired one week before the majority of the Fall Primetime TV schedule begins.  Up All Night particularly benefited from the season finale of America's Got Talent, an episode that got enormous ratings for NBC.  This blog post will be followed up with a similar post about Free Agents, and I will break down both Pilots the best I can.  I'll give a quick look at the ratings for the Pilot, and then we will get to business with finding out what this series is all about.

Up All Night 15 minute ratings provided by TV by the Numbers:

10:00-10:15

- 12.612 million viewers
- 7.6/12 HH
- 4.2/11 A18-49

10:15-10:30

- 9.282 million viewers
- 5.7/9 HH
- 3.3/9 A18-49

As you can see by the quick numbers, Up All Night had phenomenal ratings, following the America's Got Talent season finale.  I think the series will likely make it if it averages around a 2.0 in the 18-49 demo, and even 4 million viewers.  To say this series is off to a flying start, ratings wise, would be a grave understatement.

Unfortunately for the series, it hemorrhaged viewers in its second 15 minutes, losing nearly 3.4 million from its top of the hour numbers.  There are likely two reasons for this.  The first is that people forgot to turn off their TVs.  The second is that the episode was kind of boring, and only occasionally funny.  I asked for feedback from some of my facebook friends, about the episode, and not one of us was particularly enthused about the series, with Alexis K. even being so bold as to say that she will probably not watch another episode.

I'm going to start out here by saying my first ominous prediction for this series, and it's not pretty.  This series may be this season's The EventThe Event came flying out of the gate, as well, but within five or six episodes, the viewers were leaving in droves.  Many of those who stayed did not do so because of the quality of the series.  They didn't leave because they had invested too much time into it.  When Up All Night moves to Wednesdays, at 8pm EDT, it is likely going to get crushed in the ratings, as it has to go up against Survivor, The X Factor, and The Middle.  As I said above, if Up All Night provides the bare minimum in ratings, it will probably survive (this is pathetic NBC, after all).  However, if this series gets anywhere near the kind of ratings it got Wednesday night, next week, I will be completely amazed.  Now that we're done with all the boring stuff, let's get to breaking the Pilot down.

The Characters:

Reagan (Christina Applegate)
Chris (Will Arnett)
Amy The Baby (????)
Ava (Maya Rudolph)
Missy (Jennifer Hall)

I'm not listing Nick Cannon, because he was only seen in one scene on a TV set.  He may end up being an important character, but he was not treated that way in the first episode.

Reagan is evidently a talk show Producer (have I mentioned before that I hate inside the entertainment industry related TV shows?), and after her bonding period with the baby is up, she is headed back to work.

Chris is a lawyer, who quit his job to be a full-time Mr. Mom.  Chris is a goofy guy, who appears to lack maturity, and seems a bit lost in everything.  So, when it's revealed that he is a lawyer, it comes as a bit of a surprise.

Ava is the host of the talk show that Reagan works on.  To put it mildly, Ava is a piece of work.  She is very intimidating to her employees, and she is over the top in everything that she does.  She also appears to be as malleable as the wind (if that even makes sense).  Ava has no sense of boundaries, and this character is likely to be the downfall of this series.  Unfortunately for us, we're stuck with her, because this is what Reagan does for a living.  I'm figuring that the makers of this series are trying to make Ava similar to the Alan Brady (Carl Reiner) character on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but I'm not feeling her character at all.

Missy is apparently a roving Production Assistant, though it's kind of hard to tell, for sure.  She might be an Associate Producer, but her roles are pretty blurred.  She seems to be a "yes" person, but it's a little hard to tell what her character is all about, yet.  She was the butt of several jokes, and this character is likely going to be treated similarly to Jerry on Parks & Recreation.

What is the Pilot about?

The Pilot starts out by showing Chris and Reagan sitting in the bathroom while awaiting a pregnancy test result.  They eventually realize that Reagan is pregnant, and then time compresses really quickly.  In the next scene, they basically have already had the baby, and they are both talking about how holy *bleep* *bleep* cute the baby is.  They do remark that they need to tone down the language they use around the baby, but by the end of the episode it is clear that they will be a work in progress.

Through the massive compression of time, it appears that it is time for Reagan to return to work (as stated above), and Chris is left to do the baby rearing thing.  He says, as Reagan is about to leave, something to this effect, "Babe, worry, I can't totally do this."  This is the heart of where the show is going.  It's about new parents, who aren't really sure about how good they'll be at it.  I don't have kids, and don't want kids, so I don't identify with any of that *bleep* (I channeled the show's spirit there).

Once Reagan returns to work, we find out that she is basically a superwoman type character, and that the talk show has "fallen apart" without her.  It's Reagan's job to get the ship righted, and she immediately concocts a plan to get a guest out from under Ellen DeGeneres.  The guest is the maker of some kind of "cleanse" product, and everyone in the production office is forced to do the cleanse together.  Unfortunately, for the talk show, the product is faulty, and they are forced to go back to the drawing board, in regards to a guest.  The only problem is that Reagan needs to pull a late-nighter on her anniversary.

That's the basic plot, and I'll let you get home from there.  It hit all the big points, and it's not really ruining anything about the episode. 

As a "neat" little aside, my sister's name is Regan, and this series has characters of Chris and Reagan.  I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever had a TV series use our names before (at least similar names).  That's some pretty creepy stuff.

My reaction:

Any of you who know me pretty well probably know that I consider Parks & Recreation (NBC) to be my favorite "sitcom" on the air, today.  I definitely see some similarities to Parks & Recreation, but the reason Parks & Recreation works is because of the ensemble cast, and their interactions with each other.  Parks & Recreation is basically a show about not much, but it sure is fun watching people go through their not much motions in often hilarious ways.  That series is also a mockumentary, so the same rules should not even remotely apply on Up All Night.  The scene that was most reminiscent of Parks was the out at the bar partying scene.  There is also some sharp writing in the episode, but not nearly enough.

The biggest problem with Up All Night is simple.  It's just not very funny.  It's trying hard to be funny, but it's not.  Christina Applegate and Will Arnett are both very talented comedic actors, but the material is just not there for them to be great.  Their chemistry is okay, but it's nothing special.  It's also not particularly believable that these two people would have gotten together.

The next issue is that the cast is just too damn small, for a series like this.  Maybe there will be some expansions, but this show is destined to fail if it is just the Reagan, Chris, and Ava show.  Part of why Parks & Recreation works so well is because there are many characters revolving around the main character, and all of them are fun in his or her own way.  I think Maya Rudolph is a canned ham, and her overacting is seriously annoying.  There are a lot of interesting jobs inside the production of a TV show (in this case a talk show), and adding characters into the show should be a breeze.  Mark my words, if the cast doesn't get bigger, this show is going to bomb. 

The series is basically about the coming of age of two people, when having a baby (at 40ish), and coming to terms with the fact that their lives are not their own anymore.  Babies are just that...babies.  The baby isn't even a character yet, she's just a prop for comedy.  I don't really think the series knows exactly what it's about, yet, and it better find its footing fast if it wants to retain viewers.  I remember the Pilot, very well, of Cheers, and a lot of people didn't think it worked, at all.  I've seen the Pilot several times, and even remember watching it, vividly, when it originally aired.  I remember liking the Pilot, when I saw it, and I still remember how close Cheers was to being canceled.  Because of that, I'm giving Up All Night a little bit longer leash, as I do all sitcoms (that I'm willing to invest in).  If it still is bad after the fourth episode, there's no hope for it.  Mr. Sunshine got out of the gate really slowly, last season, but by the fourth episode, it was an outstanding show.  I don't see the potential with Up All Night, that I did with Mr. Sunshine, but Christina Applegate and Will Arnett are enough to keep me watching the series for at least a few more episodes, to see if it gets better. 

It's much harder for a sitcom to get canceled on NBC than it is on the other networks.  Even though the ratings were insanely high for the Pilot, I firmly believe that Up All Night still has quite an uphill climb (especially in its regular time slot), to become a success.  The Pilot was weak, and not even remotely fully formed.  Recent history has said that sitcoms that don't come out of the gate, with blazing speed, often don't make it.  Due to the massive initial ratings of Up All Night, unfortunately, it has nowhere to go but down.  Seeing next week's ratings will be very educational.  Thanks for reading.

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