All good actors must one day grow up. There isn’t a Neverland in Hollywood, unless you happen to be Michael Jackson. While demonstrating your age through natural physical degeneration (wrinkles, gray hair, cankles) is discouraged, celebrities are allowed to give a nod to one particular aspect of adult life: children. Baby bumps are a hot new accessory that multiple actresses have toted on the red carpet.
“What are you wearing Jessica?”
“Oh, the dress is Diana Von Furstenberg, but the uterus is mine.”
It is no surprise then that parenthood has entered the entertainment sphere. One particular brand of media currently exploring parenthood is TV and film comedies. The genre contains the highest and lowest of attempts.
Comedic parenthood at its worst is slapstick. There are so many easy jokes to be had. Smear baby poop leftover from a frantic diaper change on your face, greet the neighbors and BAM! You’ve got funny (at least according to the writers of 2010’s Life As We Know It). Baby excrement is not the stuff of shits n’ giggles…it is just plain shitty.
In contrast, comedic parenthood at its best is authentic. I was reminded of the authentic side while at a Joel Mchale comedy show. Mchale opened up with stories of the Kardashians and eventually moved on to anecdotes about his two young sons. My favorite joke from the set was an epic rendition of a supermarket battle fought over the purchase of frozen blueberry Eggo waffles. The reason I related to McCale’s description was because it stemmed from his real struggles with fatherhood, not a situation contrived of available parts that make up a whole (Babies Who Poop in Diapers And The People Who Are Forced To Touch Their Poop).
The newest addition to the trend is NBC’s Up All Night. Up All Night’s plot revolves around new parents Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Will Arnett). Reagan works for Ava (Maya Rudolph), an Oprah-esque talk show diva. When Reagan decides to return to her job, Chris volunteers to watch their daughter Amy. No longer a united force, Chris and Reagan struggle to cope with the chaos and changes that come with caring for their newborn.
I will be upfront with my bias. I love Will Arnett. I want Up All Night to be good because he is the leading man. Also, I wish to get a glimpse of Arnett as a Dad. In real life, Arnett is married to Amy Poehler of SNL, and the couple has a three year old and a two year old. Arnett has openly admitted in interviews that child-rearing is by no means a cake walk: “My three year old wakes up in the morning and just springs out of bed, spinning like a top. Within two seconds he’s got two baseball bats and is chasing the dog.” The Super Fan inside of me perks up and imagines Arnett rocking the little maniac back to sleep on a Segue.
No, Arnett is not Arrested Development’s Gob. Still, his career transition from failed bachelor magician Gob to family sitcom Running Wilde to Up All Night hints that his newfound life with kids has been influential.
Last night, I approached Up All Night’s premiere wide-eyed and eager. For the most part, Up All Night did deliver. The dialogue was reminiscent of 30 Rock – rapid fire one-liners and absurdist descriptions. Prior to watching the pilot, I was wary of whether or not Applegate and Arnett would have the right chemistry. However, the pair managed to pull it off. Applegate’s neurotic quality was the proper balance to Arnett’s snarky delivery. The reaffirmation of their compatibility lay in a few tender moments scattered between humorous scenarios. Though the tone shifted for a second, the pause was always genuine and never got in the way of silliness resuming.
As of now, the only problem I can foresee is keeping Chris and Reagan’s worlds connected. Rudoph’s character Ava is an obvious third wheel that is meant set Reagan apart from Chris’s baby-immersed agenda. The question is whether or not the writers will be able to bring both parents back together at the end of each episode. Establishing two strong, separate environments is great for variety’s sake but may lead to a lack of cohesion overall. Plus, what happens to Chris once baby Amy starts to gain independence? A lot is riding on an overbearing boss and a silent, adorable Gerber graduate.
Any decent parent knows that raising a human is a combination of trial and error, unconditional love and establishing a solid foundation from which to grow. The same might be said for launching a television series. Producer Lorne Michaels and his crew are taking a risk. I have high hopes that their tyke has a bright future ahead.Tags: 30 Rock, amy poehler, arrested development, christina applegate, Lorne Michaels, NBC, Parenthood, premiere, review, Up All Night, Will Arnett