The drama currently surrounding NBC’s series Up All Night is beginning to rival that of Community from 10 months ago. When the latter show’s creator and executive producer Dan Harmon was ousted in May of last year, it blew the mind’s of the show’s cult followers. The major difference between Community and Up All Night’s situation, however, is that I don’t expect Up All Night’s less nerdy, less-culty following to create an Up All Night-themed festival or stage flash mobs to urge producers to bring back the currently benched show to its relative glory. And because of the lack of viewer support (and other reasons), I can’t see Up All Night ever returning.
One of the biggest “other” reasons I can see is the fact that the show’s star Christina Applegate quit. “It’s been a great experience working on Up All Night, but the show has taken a different creative direction and I decided it was best for me to move on to other endeavors,” Applegate said in a statement. “Working with Lorne Michaels has been a dream come true and I am grateful he brought me into his TV family. I will miss the cast, producers and crew, and wish them the best always.”
Though nothing had been confirmed, reports surfaced that Lisa Kudrow was approached to replace Applegate. With Applegate gone, that leaves Maya Rudolph as the lone female star and Will Arnett, who plays Applegate’s devoted husband. And speaking of Arnett, he’s reportedly being courted aggressively by CBS, who’s eyeing him for at least one of two show pilots from producer Gerg Garcia (My Name is Earl, Yes Dear). After Netflix rolls out the new season of Arrested Development this Spring, Arnett’s profile will only rise, making him more of a commodity for CBS, where he, would no doubt, be pulling down a much heftier salary than he is at NBC.
Add to that the show’s creator Emily Spivey had already left; the show has been through no less than three showrunners since its debut in 2011 and it was supposed to switch from single-camera to a more traditional multi-camera affair (another sign the show doesn’t know what it wants to be), and what you’ve got is a recipe for failure. James Burrows (Will & Grace, Frasier) was brought in to head up a one-off multi-camera version of the show, but reports claim that’s not happening now. The show was scheduled to return from a three-month hiatus in February, but it never, well, you know…
In addition to overseeing Saturday Night Live each week, Up All Night’s figurehead, Michaels, is currently working on three NBC pilots: one with comedian and former SNL writer John Mulaney, one with SNL castmember Kenan Thompson and another with SNL head writer Seth Myers. Michaels is also developing an HBO pilot. So, I can’t imagine this dude is fully invested in a low-rated series with major personnel issues and enormous creative obstacles to overcome.
And then there’s this: Rudolph is reportedly pregnant with her fourth child. Obviously, the pregnancy can be written into the show, but even with a stable and highly rated series (Up All Night is neither), it would be a challenge to present it organically and not seem like some jumping-the-shark maneuvering.
The Up All Night shake-up at NBC is, unfortunately, in line with a continually troubled comedy lineup, especially now with 30 Rock gone and The Office ending its nine-season run on May 16. With the futures of Community and Whitney uncertain at best, there’s a rather shaky roster of shows representing NBC’s comedy output. There’s the low-rated, should’ve-been canceled Guys With Kids (produced by Jimmy Fallon), the critically-acclaimed but low-rated The New Normal, the low-rated freshman series 1600 Penn and the always-brilliant Parks and Recreation, which enjoys ratings that are respectable, but only because it’s on NBC. Matthew Perry’s new series Go On, with about 4 million viewers each week, is the star of the network’s comedies; this, compared to ABC’s flagship comedy Modern Family, which averages more than 10 million viewers and CBS’ ratings hero Big Bang Theory, which rakes in about 18 million viewers each week.
Maybe I’m wrong about all of this. There’s a part of me that hopes I’m wrong, since I actually like this show. I thought the writers did a great job of straddling the line that usually splits traditional family sitcoms with smarter, edgier fare like Community and Parks and Rec. I found the relationship between Arnett and Applegate’s characters endearing. But from the looks of it, even if Up All Night does come back, it’ll be back in name only.