Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NBC Fall Pilot Reviews: Up All Night and Free Agents - Premiere September 14

Up All Night

Up All Night - Wednesdays 8:00PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 10:00PM ET/PT


From the executive producer of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels, comes a new NBC sitcom about modern day parenthood. Up All Night, starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, is one of the fall's first sitcom premieres for the broadcast networks, and features a new mother and father (Applegate and Arnett) trying to adjust to their new life of becoming parents after seven years of childless marriage.

Reagan Brinkley (Applegate) is a loving wife and a successful career woman who has lived a relatively carefree life of drinking and smoking, but it is all about to change (even if she is determined to not change it) with the arrival of a new baby. Husband Chris (Arnett) is a former hockey player who now gets to be a stay-at-home dad for young baby Amy, sort of like a modern day Jason Seaver from Growing Pains. Together, they have to start adjusting to this new lifestyle, no matter how difficult and challenging it may be at times.

Cast Details:

Christina Applegate as Reagan Brinkley
Will Arnett as Chris Brinkley
Maya Rudolph as Ava
Nick Cannon as Calvin

Christina Applegate (Reagan) plays the mother of the house and the successful career woman. Applegate, of course, has had plenty of sitcom roles, beginning in the 80s with Married… with Children in her role as Kelly Bundy, as well as starring roles in the sitcoms Jesse and Samantha Who? She has also had many movie roles, including Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, Anchorman, and Hall Pass.

Will Arnett (Chris) is the father of the house, an unemployed ex-hockey player who is now the stay at home father. Arnett has had many roles in many series as well. Prior to this series, he was a regular on the series Arrested Development, as well as the recently cancelled series Running Wilde. Additionally, he has had many guest roles on popular series including The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, King of the Hill, and more. His movie roles have included Hot Rod, Blades of Glory, and Let's Go to Prison.

Maya Rudolph (Ava) plays Reagan's ambitious but vulnerable talk show host boss at work. Rudolph is best known as being an alumnus of the NBC series Saturday Night Live from 2000 to 2007, but has also had roles in Chicago Hope, City of Angels, and Kath & Kim.

Nick Cannon (Calvin) plays the role of Reagan's wildly popular co-host (we don't see much of him in the pilot). The husband of musician Mariah Carey, Cannon got his start as a child actor on the series All That, and has most recently filled the role of the host of the series America's Got Talent.


Pilot Plot:

We only got a copy of the very first episode, where we basically get a look into the birth of the new baby and Reagan's return to work, while Chris begins to make adjustments to his life as a stay-at-home dad. The transition is difficult for both Chris and Reagan, though, because Chris is at home struggling to know how to handle the baby and it seems that Reagan is still doing the job of both parents, even while she is at work. In the first episode, we also get to see the couple approaching their seventh wedding anniversary, and how the trials and tribulations of parenthood affect how they are going to celebrate that anniversary, and it means leaving a big chunk of their past behind.

Analysis:

I am actually a little bit disappointed with this pilot episode of the series. I really had high expectations for this series given the great cast that the series has (and don't get me wrong, it is a great cast, and they seem to have great chemistry together), but the show itself is just lacking.

For starters, I found myself trying to find something to laugh at while watch the episode. But in watching the entire episode, I couldn't really find any one moment that was truly funny enough to laugh at. The funniest part of the episode was Maya Rudolph's lines that had absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the episode. I kept waiting and waiting for something funny to happen with Applegate and Arnett, but it just didn't happen.

Another problem that I see with the series is the lack of a truly meaningful plot. The series puts itself forth as an "irreverent look at modern parenthood," but I'm not sure what is so modern about it. Sure, it has the role reversal (mom is working and dad is the stay-at-home dad), but this has been done before, over 25 years ago in fact, on the ABC series Growing Pains. And that series managed to do it with great plots and plenty of laughs. I'm not sure what is so unique about the way that this series handles it.

On the same lines as that "uniqueness," the series seems to make a subtle issue out of the "advanced age" of the parents. Really? Being in your 40s (and let's face it, they are actors, so they look much younger even) and having your first child then after seven years of marriage is out of the ordinary? While it may be true that many people do have children earlier in life, this series essentially strikes me as the story of a day in the life of Tina Fey or Amy Poehler (hmm, the wife of Will Arnett)… both of whom are not really that out of the ordinary for actresses.

Essentially what we have here is a great cast (probably one of the best ones to be assembled together for a single series since 30 Rock in my opinion), but a series that seems to be dead in the water. And I really hope that changes.

Conclusion:

This show is definitely off to a rough start. If it doesn't have some major change (but not in the cast, the cast is excellent), it is doomed to failure. It is really disappointing to me, because this was one of the shows that I was most looking forward for the fall, and it is just seriously lacking the elements of a great series. A sitcom should make you have one serious laugh once in a half hour, and this sitcom failed there. A great cast (which this series has) should have great lines, but it just doesn't here. I don't want to be too pessimistic about the series, because I believe that there is some hope for it, but it is definitely going to require some major changes. It seems that many critics are actually liking this series, but they seem to focus on the chemistry between the characters and how they portray the roles in their reviews. And I do agree that the characters and chemistry are top-notch. But the series needs serious plot development.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 2.5/5
Funniness: 2/5
Overall: 2/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 09/14/11

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, September 14 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site

  • TV.com

  • epguides.com

  • Internet Movie Database

  • Wikipedia

  • Up All Night Photo Gallery



  • Preview:





    Free Agents

    Free Agents - Wednesdays 8:30PM ET/PT on NBC
    Premieres Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 10:30PM ET/PT

    Sometimes, romance doesn't exactly go as planned. But that is how Alex (Hank Azaria) and Helen (Kathryn Hahn) end up in each other's arms in the new NBC series Free Agents. Based upon a British series of the same name, Free Agents is about the workplace romance that occurs between Alex, who is recently divorced, and co-worker Helen, who is dealing with a fiance who was lost in a tragic accident. They're sort of an odd couple, but mostly clandestine, as they try to figure out where (if anywhere) they should take their relationship, while hiding it all from their co-workers (who seem to be awfully meddlesome).

    Cast Details:

    Hank Azaria as Alex
    Kathryn Hahn as Helen
    Anthony Head as Stephen
    Mo Mandel as Dan
    Al Madrigal as Gregg
    Natasha Leggero as Emma
    Joe Lo Truglio as Walter

    Hank Azaria (Alex) is the male lead role in the series, playing a recently divorced man. Azaria has had movie roles in The Birdcage, Along Came Polly, and others, but most of us know him as one of the leading male voices on The Simpsons, playing most notably, Moe, Chief Wiggum, and Apu.

    Kathryn Hahn (Helen) plays the female lead, the coworker of Alex who recently lost her fiance. Hahn previously played in the series Crossing Jordan, and has also had roles in the series Four Kings, Traffic Light, and Mad Love.

    Anthony Head (Stephen) is the boss at work who wants everybody to focus on work so that he doesn't have to. He has played many different roles on series in both the United States and the United Kingdom, including playing the same role on the UK version of Free Agents.

    Mo Mandel (Dan) plays the bachelor in search of a wingman. Mandel is a fresh face in the acting world, having previously appeared on the series Modern Family.

    Al Madrigal (Gregg) plays the nerdy lone husband of the group. Madrigal has appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, as well as Comedy Central's The Daily Show.

    Natasha Leggero (Emma) is the spitfire office assistant in the series. Leggero is a standup comedian who has appeared on many of the late night talk shows, and has been a frequent panelist on the series Chelsea Lately.

    Joe Lo Truglio (Walter) plays the office security guard who likes to offer personal romantic security on the side. He has appeared as a regular in the final season of Reno 911!, as well as in the films Superbad and Pineapple Express.

    Pilot Plot:

    In the pilot episode, we get to meet the two main characters, Alex and Helen, as both of them are adjusting to new phases in their love life. Alex is newly-divorced and is trying to just get his life back together. Meanwhile, Helen was about to get married, but the death of her fiance a year ago places her on emotional thin ice. In the midst of it all, the two find themselves together--in fact, the very first thing that we see in the pilot episode is the two in bed with each other, a very unique way of starting off a series. They are dealing with meddling coworkers who are trying to help them move ahead in their love lives, but on their own time, they are trying to sort things out and decide whether or not they want to go ahead with their romance--in secret.

    Analysis:

    The only thing that we have going on in the pilot episode is Alex's relationship with Helen, and it kind of drags on. Unfortunately, this was just the pilot episode, and the entire series looks to be a series where this whole theme is going to just continue to drag on. After all, the entire plot of the series is about (I'll say it again) "exploring the trials and tribulations of finding love and companionship the second time around,"so it isn't going to end with the first episode.

    That poses a very serious problem. If that plot already seemed tired by the end of the first episode, how tired is it going to seem after two episodes? Or an entire season, if it makes it that far? Maybe this type of series can work for British audiences, but not every British series can be successfully adapted to an American series, and truthfully, the only one that it has truly worked for in the past few decades was The Office.

    What is even worse, though, is that the cast of characters doesn't seem particularly cohesive. They are certainly great actors and actresses, but they don't seem to be paired well very together. Of course, in a sense, the two main characters are supposed to be "sort of" an odd couple, but a lot of the casting in the series just seems unnatural and random in a sense that you normally don't see on a TV series, and I don't particularly enjoy that aspect.

    Despite the shortcomings of the plot of the series, though, the pilot does have a few funny moments in it, though not necessarily laugh out loud moments. Sometimes, those moments are sufficient for a sitcom when it does well in other areas, but I'm not so sure that this series does that.


    Conclusion:

    I'm just not totally sure what this show is supposed to be after watching the pilot. Of course, the series is supposed to be about "exploring the trials and tribulations of finding love and companionship the second time around," but it just doesn't make for a particularly exciting series. But still, the pilot episode did have some funny moments in it. It is hard to tell where this series is going to go (what exactly do you do with a series that is based upon a relationship), but honestly, I don't see this being a series that will last too long (the British version has only had six episodes so far and has yet to be renewed for a second series after the first one aired two years ago), so we probably won't have to worry about that.

    Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

    Watchability: 2.5/5
    Funniness: 2.5/5
    Overall: 2.5/5

    -- Reviewed by skees53 on 09/14/11


    Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, September 14 on our message board.

    Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site

  • TV.com

  • epguides.com

  • Internet Movie Database

  • Wikipedia

  • Free Agents Photo Gallery



  • Preview:




    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Saturday, December 3

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    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 28)

    Friday, December 2

    • Kristen Bell (Central Park/The Good Place) - Watch Kristen on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Marlon Wayans (Marlon/The Wayans Bros.) - Marlon is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Marc Maron (GLOW/Maron) - Marc appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • James Marsden (Dead to Me/30 Rock) - James is a guest on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
    • ReneĆ© Rapp (The Sex Lives of College Girls) - ReneĆ© will be on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
    • Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/The Office) - NBC's Today catches up with Ellie in the 9am hour.
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