Gob Bluth and Veronica Corningstone, parents.
The dustbin of history is littered with bad parenting sitcoms. “Baby Talk.” “Family Matters.” “My Two Dads.” “Baby Bob.” “Small Wonder.” (You remember this one. It was the one where a family created a robot named Vicki but treated her like a normal little girl so the neighbors wouldn’t know. Remember?) “Up All Night” is, thankfully, not one of them.
Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Will Arnett) are first-time parents to Amy (one of the cutest TV babies ever). Their travails are familiar to any new parent: Balancing the demands of work and family. Maintaing a romantic relationship with your spouse. Finding a reliable babysitter. Outclassing the other parents in Mr. Bob’s Toddler Play Class.
Throw into the mix Ava (Maya Rudolph), Amy’s boss and the host of an Oprah-like talk show, and reliable guest stars/supporting actors like Will Forte, Jason Lee and Molly Shannon, and you have a gently understated comedy that’s less zany than “30 Rock” but far funnier and less saccharin than, say, “Full House,” or, well, any of the sitcoms listed back in the first paragraph.
Like “30 Rock,” “Up All Night” was created by a “Saturday Night Live” writer, Emily Spivey, balancing work and motherhood. The show was retooled after the success of Bridesmaids to give a greater role to Rudolph’s character, and she’s the wild card. Whereas Applegate and (especially) Arnett underplay their roles (which makes them more believable as average parents, though a sitcom with Veronica Corningstone and Gob Bluth as parents would be pretty awesome), Rudolph spins out of control, like an ego hurricane. Threatened by a potential burglar while she’s babysitting Amy one night, Ava shouts into the dark, “I have got a glock in my purse and superb night vision!”
The best episode so far, “Birth,” flashes back to Amy and Chris preparing for and then going to the hospital. You get a glimpse of their pre-baby lives — Reagan and Ava coming to terms with how a baby will change their relationship at work and outside it, Chris weighing the decision to leave his law firm and become a stay-at-home dad — and a depth to the characters beyond simple parenting stereotypes. Perhaps being new parents themselves helps, but Applegate and Arnett hit the right notes and make “Up All Night” a rarity: a non-terrible parenting sitcom that even non-parents can enjoy.