Can ‘Up All Night’ Survive the Shift to Three Camera Sitcom?

ALTThe absolutely wacky trajectory of NBC’s baby momma drama comedy Up All Night continues in a path that even the most seasoned television news meteorologist couldn’t have predicted: it’s going from a one-camera show to a three camera show. That’s crazier than a bag full of cats in a cheese factory when all the cheese is made of LSD and fermented toe nail clippings.

At home you’re probably thinking, “Who cares? They got two more cameras. Good for them!” But it’s not the number of cameras that matters but the whole format of the show. The more modern, snarky, and critic-friendly comedies have only one camera and no laugh track and a general edgier feel (think Community, Arrested Development, or The New Girl). Three camera shows usually have a laugh track or studio audience providing the laughs, a more traditional feel, and the giant ratings that go along with them (think Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, and just about every comedy up until The Larry Sanders Show). This is a major shift and one that makes sense for NBC, which has been doing a lot of crowing about making their comedies more broad and attracting more viewers (their great broad hope, Animal Practice was single camera and already cancelled so this might be collateral damage).

Up is going to film five more episodes for season two using the new format (filming starts again in February after rejiggering everything to accommodate the shift). The already-filmed episodes with only one measly camera will air by December and the renovated and rebooted series will come back around March or April. Happy Days also made the same realignment with its third season beginning with three cameras, but back then all sitcoms were going to that format where as now most new favorites (think Modern Family) are headed away from it. Ironically, Happy Days also gave us the phrase “jump the shark.” If Up All Night gets a cousin Oliver, moves to Hawaii, decides the first two season are all a dream and Bobby was in the shower all along, then it’s getting axed from recording on my DVR ever again.

Season 2 has been especially hard for this show which already underwent a format change. The first season was about Will Arnett‘s Chris staying at home with a baby daughter while his wife Reagan (Christina Applegate) worked on a talk show with an insane and demanding boss (Maya Rudolph). This year, the talk show is cancelled, Rudolph’s Ava is still kicking around with nothing to do, and Reagan is at home while Chris and Reagan’s brother run a construction company out of the garage. The ratings are still modest even though the cast and writing have always been top notch.

Applegate and Rudolph have plenty of experience making traditional sitcoms work (if you want proof just search for Married with Children reruns, because that s**t is still on) so I have lots of faith, but again, this deviates from the show that we all signed up for. This doesn’t mean a three camera Up All Night can’t be great, especially if they focus on the diva-tastic Ava, avoid the hackneyed plots of other sitcoms, and try to maintain their original voice. Still this choice reeks of desperation, and there is nothing worse than getting stuck next to the person at the party that will do say and do anything to get you to like it. Even if that person is someone you once knew and really, really liked.

Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan

[Photo Credit: NBC]


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