Loyal fans of NBC’s comedic sitcom Up All Night sighed with content at the close of its inaugural season last April. After following Chris (Will Arnett) and Reagan (Christina Applegate) Brinkley through their first year of parenting, fraught with mishaps and neuroses, we felt assured they had made a stable life for themselves.
Chris, a stay-at-home dad, and Reagan, a multi-tasking mom, made it work while proving they can still have fun. In its season one finale, they laid hung over but happy in bed after a night out ripping shots with their best friend Ava (Maya Rudolph) and Ava’s boyfriend Kevin (Jason Lee) as baby Amy slept soundly at home.
This season, the tides have changed — and if Thursday night's premiere is any indication, a typhoon’s on the horizon.
Not only does Chris appear near gaunt, having shed close to 20 pounds, he’s taken on a more tailored ‘do. The goofy, ex-hockey player we found huggable has been made-over into a more modern man. A third of the way into the episode, he stands pants-less before Reagan’s recently divorced younger brother Scott (Luka Jones) and exposes hip-hugging briefs nauseatingly nostalgic for Top Gun.
Aside from Will Arnett looking wiry, there are other, more substantial curveballs set in motion. For one, Ava’s show has been cancelled and thus, she and her producer Reagan are not-so-gainfully unemployed. In addition, flannel-clad Scott, a.k.a. “Uncle Scotty,” whose place of residence and overall demeanor has yet to be revealed, is the contractor renovating the Brinkley’s “Poopy Palace” (or the master bath). While Kevin is nowhere to be found, Amy appears a few inches taller, having ditched her pacifier and acquired light pink Crocs.
“What is to become of my Ava Show golf cart?” pleads Ava in her sultry baritone voice, with nostrils flared. . Promptly, wine glasses are filled, and the house vacuum unsheathed so Reagan can focus while talking Ava through her shock. Meanwhile, Chris ventures to “the tile store” with Uncle Scotty and Amy, only to return home having accepted a job offer from his former douche-bag of a boss, Ted.
And voilà: the mother-father role-reversal has been re-reversed. Chris rejoined the workforce to face the monstrous stack of papers he abandoned a year prior.
Between the demise of Ava’s show, Chris’s deep-dive into lawyer-dom, and Scott’s weak workplace confrontation with his former father-in-law who’s also his manager, we’re reminded how rare it is to both love your profession and excel at it. In this economy — a phrase you’ve heard more than your full name — nothing’s a guarantee. Depressed yet?
To add to the tension of a premiere focused on the tumultuous nature of long-term employment, Ava and Reagan struggle to play nice as their friendship is tried. While Ava assumes she and Reagan will move on to another venture as a team, Reagan all-too-eagerly accepts motherhood as her sole responsibility. The two women pack up their offices while competing in a Stevie Nicks speaker sound-off. We’re relieved when they reconvene in the kitchen, concede to remaining “best friends,” and bond over shared Greek yogurt.
Unsurprisingly, Ava — ingeniously played by Maya Rudolph —is our saving grace. With her giggle-inducing quirks and subtle one-liners, Rudolph's vivacious sense of humor which we devoured on SNL not too long ago staves off the back-breaking straw. She whips around in her convertible wearing oversized shades and blasts Melissa Etheridge. While glaring at Reagan from the swing set of a playground, she kisses the foreheads of surrounding strangers’ babies. Later in the episode, she creepily declares: “Romance, thy name is Christopher!” when Chris draws a bath for Reagan as a doting husband.
We’re charmed by Maya Rudolph, so much so that we’ll continue watching Up All Night despite its near-snooze-fest start.