Up All Night/Free Agents – “Pilot”/”Pilot”

Up All Night – “Pilot

A good cast can elevate an okay script to something pretty damn entertaining. Maybe that will happen next week. Okay, that’s actually being a little too harsh. There are actually a decent amount of good things in the pilot for Up All Night, enough that I’ll tune in next week to see if the show is worth watching. Pilots are tricky because they have to set up all the characters and the situations and all that exposition can take away the more episodic storytelling that works for most sitcoms. What absolutely works about Up All Night are the leads; Christina Applegate and Will Arnett. The fact that these two are excellent comedic performers is nothing new to views of Married… with Children or Arrested Development, but going through the episode I was reminded just how good they are and happy to learn they have a very natural chemistry with each other. Also they have one insanely cute baby. I mean, god damn. I am not really one of those people who goes all gaga over babies (awful pun intended) but that kid is just adorable. There’s also a funny gag featuring some heavily bleeped dialogue about how fucking beautiful the baby is followed by “we really need to start watching our language.” What doesn’t work? I don’t know… I might not be into the central premise of the show. It’s about a couple with a new baby and their realization that *gasp* life is different with a new baby. Can any parents out there tell me if the baby-related gags were funnier to them? I mean I’m about as far away from marriage and parenthood as a guy can be so maybe I just don’t “get it,” but I’ve liked past comedies about those very subjects so I’m not sure that’s it. What doesn’t work in the pilot but might work better in future episodes? Maya Rudolph is essentially playing her Saturday Night Live impersonations of Oprah Winfrey and Tyra Banks, combined with the stereotypical “spoiled celebrity” character seen before on many TV shows about TV shows. Rudolph indicates that her character Ava is not a total idiot, but that will have to come out in the weeks ahead. She gave a great performance in the film Away We Go and I’ve yet to see her do anything else on that level, though I’d definitely like to.

Free Agents – “Pilot

I’m reviewing these two shows together for a couple reasons. Firstly, they air back-to-back on the same network. Secondly, they share a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses. Hank Azaria is one of those actors who has had a few different TV shows, but with one incredibly long-running exception most of them didn’t last all that long. I guess The Simpsons (entering its 23rd season this fall) didn’t seem like safe enough employment (and in these troubled time, what is?) so he’s giving it another go with Free Agents. He brings the same likable energy he brought many of his previous roles but nothing spectacular. Kathryn Hahn is great as the female lead. Movies and TV seem very interested in the “fuck buddy” relationship lately. Azaria’s character Alex is recently divorced and Hahn’s character Helen has been single for a year following the untimely death of her fiancé (comedy!) so naturally Alex and Helen hook up. Helen says Alex isn’t ready for a relationship but they keep ending up in bed. Now I admittedly know nothing about relationships but it seems to me everyone involved is treating this as more complicated than it is. None of the supporting characters, such as Anthony Stewart Head, Joe Lo Truglio, the woman who voices Callie on Ugly Americans and that one guy who was on The Daily Show a couple of times, are particularly well developed or memorable. Likeable leads like Azaria and Hahn should elevate the material but the pilot doesn’t really deliver much material to elevate.

Verdict: I like the leads but just am not connecting with the material. Both of these shows have one more week to make me care.

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