Saturday, September 22, 2012

Up All Night for new reasons

NBC's retooled Up All Night returned last night with "Friendships & Partnerships." Gone is the Ava show. Gone is the incredibly annoying character of Missy (Jennifer Hall). Gone is the family's financial security and their five year plan. With the end of the daytime talk show, gone is the familiar Up All Night, about half of which took place on set and in the offices around the set.

This resets things for the three main characters, forcing major adjustments. Reagan (Christina Applegate) gets to spend a little more time with Amy, since she's off of work. Chris (Will Arnett) considers going back to being a lawyer, but finds it doesn't fit with the daddy he is now. Ava (Maya Rudolph) has a total melt down, but with Reagan's help, she will begin building the next stage of her career.

But there's also newness abounding in "Friendships & Partnerships." Reagan's brother, Scott (Luka Jones, Best Friends Forever), comes to redo their bathroom (before learning that the income faucet is shutting off). He is dissatisfied with his bully of an employer, who happens to be his ex-father-in-law. Scott considers going out on his own, but he knows that he is a talented contractor with little business sense. Chris hatches a brilliant scheme that he will take care of the business side of Scott's company. Thus, new income is born.

Or is it? Let's hope the Brinkleys have some savings! Most small businesses fail. And even though this is a television show, where it will likely succeed, and much more quickly than is realistic, there will probably be some stories about money being tight first. It's good, then, that they have Ava, who appears to be much richer than they are, single with no children, who could help Chris and Reagan out if need be.

I honestly don't know how this new Up All Night will work. Scott is a much better character than Missy, though it bothers me that he has seemingly always been around, as seen in the theme song, even though he didn't appear or was even talked about in the first twenty-four episodes. He is less high strung, and can probably be attractive to the opposite sex, providing the show with its "necessary" romance fix. Jones seems to have decent enough chemistry to fit in with the other leads.

More worrisome is what will become of Ava. It's great to see her go through something so traumatic, and I'm anxious to see what her next venture will be. But taking away her show tossed out a huge chunk of what Up All Night was. Contracting doesn't look to provide as many rich, humorous situations as daytime TV did. It is doubtful that Ava will be involved in Chris and Scott's enterprise, and until she finds her new calling, her character is likely to become pretty aimless.

Because "Friendships & Partnerships" is such a transitional episode, I will reserve judgment about the changes for a few weeks. The fact of the matter is, Up All Night was, despite it's fantastic cast, only ever good, not great, so a shake up probably won't hurt it too much. This episode is about on par, in terms of humor, with season one. There are great moments, and then plenty of forgettable scenes, too. What remains to be seen is whether it can grow into something worthwhile, or if these are just desperate measures for a sinking ship.

Up All Night airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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