Film and TV

Up All Night: Tell Them What They've Won, Johnny: A "New Car!"

People always talk about the changes resulting from having children. And to be sure, there are a ton: an end to normal healthy sleep, the death of your social life, a disturbing tendency to cry during long distance commercials, but this is just the tip of the parental iceberg.

For example, if you or your significant other gave birth today, would you be able to bring that baby home from the hospital? If you're currently driving something with two wheels, riding the bus, or favoring something "sporty," your answer might be no. You neglectful monster.

So Reagan and Chris need a new car. Reagan's BMW convertible isn't going to cut it as child transport (and not just because the Beastie Boys aren't exactly age appropriate driving around music). She's hesitant, and who wouldn't be? But Chris convinces her to think in terms of practicality.

Such talk tends to go out the window after several bottles of wine, however, and that's certainly the case here, as they consider such options as the van from The A-Team and Doc Brown's DeLorean. They end up putting in the winning bid on what looks like a 70s Dodge Sportsman van, previously owned by a shapeshifting Indian that may or may not have died before the Reagan Administration.

Meanwhile, Ava is incensed at making In Touch's list of top 10 celebrity dropouts ("And not even #1! I'm #8 between...H.G. Wells and Billy Joel, who are these people?"). She wants to do a show about a serious subject, securing the author of a dense bestseller about the economic crisis, a book she puts off reading to the point until the last minute. Luckily, Chris has read the book, and he agrees to help Ava cram for her interview using kitchen accessories. She toughs her way though before getting the author to confess to being sexually abused by the football team in high school. By the end of it all, we can't help but ask, wasn't this show about a baby at some point?

I seriously don't know where the show is going at any given point. Was it a conscious decision to make Maya Rudolph's character the subject of half of each episode? And if so, how does that support the premise of your show? If you wrote research papers in school, you know everything follows from your thesis. If the thesis of Up All Night is: "having a child changes your life in dramatic ways," how does the Ava character support that?

Again, I love Maya Rudolph, but the Ava plotlines fatally undermine the Reagan-Chris-baby stories that should be the meat of the show. Christina Applegate and Will Arnett could be one of the most believable couples on TV if they weren't constantly strangled by Ava's "wacky" hijinx.

Anyway, desperate to trade in their John Denver-mobile, Reagan and Chris (in his best negotiating suit) test drive a generic mini-SUV (that happens to the twin of the one driven by their annoying neighbors). Chris makes some needed modifications (tape deck, tinted windows, sunset decal) and the whole family heads to the beach. Secure in the knowledge Chris' early J. Geils cassettes will be enjoyed by another generation.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar