I have to admit, I want to like Up All Night more than I actually love the show yet, in part because I love both Will Arnett (Chris) and Christina Applegate (Reagan), and in part because I want there to be an actual comedy about a working mother instead of jokes about Liz Lemon’s perpetually forestalled adoption. But it’s fixed to find a way to make the universal experiences of parenthood feel fresh. I’m not even a parent and I know that raising an infant makes you sleep-deprived. The show’s going to need to find a way to communicate that these experiences are new to the characters without expecting that they’ll be new to us, to have us laugh in recognition rather than tune out because yes, babies can be hard to corral.
The best way Up All Night‘s found so far to do that is to do gender reversals, to put words that might be dismissed if they were coming out of Reagan’s mouth in Chris’s. There’s one very funny scene of Christina Applegate wrestling herself into a skirt, but otherwise, the show doesn’t harp on her baby weight. Instead, Chris promises that in his new role as stay-at-home Dad, “Maybe I’ll get the old Nordic track about, get my body back to where it needs to be,” only to have Reagan sigh: “The much talked-about, little seen body renaissance.” The first time Chris ventures out grocery shopping, he’s confronted by an ominous older woman who fawns a little too aggressively over baby Amy and comes home with a giant wheel of cheese because he can’t navigate the aisles. And he freaks out about leaving his law firm to take care of Amy, explaining that he’s angry, but he doesn’t know who at.
And when, in the morning when they get out of bed after their anniversary party, he voices a universal truth after Reagan complains about having to go into the office. “Yeah, ’cause raising a human’s no work at all,” he snapped. It shouldn’t feel this good to hear a man admit that raising children is labor. But it really does.