The Morning Round-Up: ‘Up All Night,’ ‘Suburgatory’ & ‘Modern Family’

Senior Television Writer
11.17.11 58 Comments


It’s time for another morning round-up of reviews, with quick thoughts on, in order, “Up All Night,” “Suburgatory” and “Modern Family,” coming up just as soon as I send 25 women stricken with alopecia to Disney World…

When I wrote in my “New Girl” review yesterday about how most of this season’s other new sitcoms have already firmed up their identities, a few of you pointed out I’d ignored “Up All Night,” which is still struggling to mediate the war between the two shows fighting for dominance within it. (Heck, the show has even tweaked its opening title sequence – which was my favorite for any new comedy – to both shorten it and feature a bit more of Reagan’s work life.) Last week’s episode with Jason Lee did a better balancing act than the show mostly has, simply by putting Ava in charge of Amy for a night, and last night’s episode tried to make the pieces fit by having Reagan make poor choices at work inspired by her identity as a new mom. The problem is that the Molly Shannon character(*) was such a ridiculous hot mess that it was hard to buy Reagan keeping her around that long. The show has one level of reality when it’s at home, and another when it’s at work, and good as Christina Applegate is, she can’t usually make the woman from one world make sense in the other.

(*) Watching Shannon on “Up All Night” back to back with Ana Gasteyer on “Suburgatory” put me in the mood for some Schweddy balls.

Chris’ baby burn-out, on the other hand, felt very true to life, and if the problem of hiring a Hot Babysitter is a cliche by now (especially airing a night after “Parenthood” continued to deal with its Hot Receptionist story arc), they at least subverted it by having Reagan be the one pushing to hire her, and making the end of her employment have nothing to do with her hotness and everything to do with Chris overreacting to leaving her in a stranger’s care.(**)

(**) Though that’s something of a continuity problem, as they’ve done episodes in the past (most memorably in the pilot) where they’ve gone out on the town and left Amy with a sitter. As we talked about in the minivan episode, Reagan’s job and whatever savings they have from Chris’ gives them a kind of bottomless checkbook, which doesn’t make them the most relatable new parents. They can get and afford childcare whenever they need it, and Chris is only staying home because he wants to.    

“Suburgatory,” meanwhile, seems to have settled into its own identity. I’m just not sure I like that identity. This isn’t really a series about the culture clash of a city kid moving to the suburbs, but of a middle-class kid moving to an absurdly wealthy community where everyone’s auditioning for a reality show. And while the cartoonishness can sometimes yield funny moments, it’s tiring overall. Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto are great together – though some corners of the Internet have started suggesting they’re too great together and that George/Tessa scenes are uncomfortable as a result – and I wish the show was a little more about them and a little less about the over-the-top lifestyles of Dallas and everyone else.

That said, “Sweet Sixteen” deserves recognition for one howlingly funny scene: Tessa’s awkward-bordering-on-spastic dance when her favorite band began performing. I am, admittedly, a sucker for funny sitcom dancing – like this, this and this – but that was a splendid bit of physical comedy by Levy.

Didn’t love most of the adult storylines on last night’s “Modern Family.” Sleep-clowning was a better use of Fizbo than his last appearance, but overall I think the make-up needs to take a break, right along with storylines about Cam being overly-sensitive to everything that’s said about him. I’m also trying to figure out whether the writing staff gets weekly massages where goofy things happen, given that this was at least the third storyline (including Claire’s orgasmic reactions at the mall and James Marsden as the squatter in Lily’s play castle) built around massage tables. And I think it’s time for a “Parenthood”/”Modern Family” crossover just so we can put Julia Braverman and Claire Dunphy in a room together to figure out once and for all which of them is the Worst Person in the World. 

But I really liked Phil and Jay’s conversation about the job – a sweet moment that felt honest and earned, rather than shoehorned in the way the show often goes for sentiment – and the stuff with the kids was splendid, particularly Alex finally figuring out a way to marry her approach to life with Haley’s, and preparing herself for a glorious adulthood where Haley’s fans are working for her own. 

What did everybody else think?

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