Why ‘Up All Night’ Was This Season’s Best New Sitcom

By  · Published on May 9th, 2012

With most of the sitcoms that debuted in the fall (and managed to escape cancellation) winding down this week, I think it’s time to crown a winner. Which one of these brand new sitcoms most deserves to stick around? Which was the most memorable? Which came out on top? Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl has already been renewed, Whitney was a thing that happened, but the show that worked the best for me was NBC’s Up All Night.

Executive produced by Lorne Michaels and created by former Saturday Night Live writer Emily Spivey, Up All Night is a funny and relatable look at the life of a married couple, played by Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, trying to adapt to life with a new baby. Arnett is Chris, a former lawyer who has decided to stay home with their daughter while Appelgate’s Regan returns to work where she struggles to balance motherhood with the demands of her larger than life boss Ava – an Oprah-like talk show host played by Maya Rudolph.

The show was this season’s best new sitcom and here are four reasons why.

Maya Rudolph sings

While another person blessed with a voice so gorgeous would just use it to start some measly singing career, Maya Rudolph uses it for comedy. There’s a moment at the end of the show’s premiere where she starts singing “Landslide” that demonstrates how hilarious she is. It’s goofy but restrained.

She knows how to make something absurd and odd without going over the top (well, it’s a little over the to but it’s the perfect level of over the topness). And because Maya’s character Ava is a former pop star, there are also some great music video parodies like the one she did with Jorma Taccone for a fictional 1993 R&B slow jam called “Basically.” The song includes lyrics like, “mmm, girl. Pragmatically speaking, you’re the perfect option for me right now.”

Christina Applegate

After Kaitlin Olson, Christina Applegate is one of the most underrated comedians today. She was so young and yet already making us laugh on Married with Children and her Emmy award-nominated performance on the unjustly canceled Samantha Who? just underscored how great she is.

In Up All Night, there’s naturalness to her humor. It’s in her delivery and subtle physical comedy. She’s funny here in that way a friend of yours might be, busting out little dances or drunken high kicks. Thinking about the history of TV, it’s also just kind of nice to see her development over the years. Applegate is a TV staple.

It hasn’t been canceled…yet.

Some of the sitcoms that premiered this season: Man Up!, How to Be a Gentleman, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, Allen Gregory, 2 Broke Girls, Suburgatory. There really weren’t that many, but of those few that I listed, four have already been canceled. There was a time when most of the shows that we watched were sitcoms – just think about the most memorable programs from the ’70s and ’80s.

The obvious difference today is the emergence of reality television. But I also don’t think that networks have much patience for this format anymore. The fact that Up All Night hasn’t been canceled yet, speaks to the quality and appeal of the show now more than ever.

It has so much heart

Obviously the way that Applegate and Arnett interact with their onscreen daughter is precious and sweet – in the first episode they stare at her while she’s sleeping and can’t stop themselves from making profanity laced observations about how cute and perfect she is. But the relationship between the two lead characters is romantic enough to bring a tear to your eye. In the season finale, Chris re-proposes to Regan by serenading her in a crowded bar.

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