At this point, though nothing has been made official, we all have a fairly good idea that Up All Night will never return to television. Christina Applegate quit the show. Emily Spivey, the series’ original showrunner, departed. Will Arnett signed on to Greg Garcia’s (Raising Hope) CBS pilot, and the networks are courting Maya Rudoplh for a variety show. Up All Night isn’t dead, but it’s dead. Now that most of the dust has settled, TV Guide ran a fascinating piece on what exactly happened behind the scenes that resulted in its demise, including the batsh*t idea NBC executives tries to push through to save the series, but which ultimately drove Christina Applegate off the show.
From the beginning, Up All Night was troubled. The pilot that we saw, and that many of us loved, was meant to set the tone for the series. However, because of Maya Rudolph’s sudden success in Bridesmaids, Up All Night began to be retooled even before the series went to air. They shifted focus away from the home life — which was what the show was meant to be about — and on Maya Rudolph’s talk-show, Ava. They brought in Nick Cannon, who was supposed to have a larger role, and they pushed the parenting angle to the background.
That backfired. Ava never really felt like an organic part of the show, and Maya Rudolph often felt like an annoying extraneous character. After a first season that saw ratings progressively tumble, NBC decided to shift focus, again. They canceled Ava, turned Christina Applegate’s character into a stay-at-home mom, and Arnett’s stay-at-home Dad became a contractor, struggling with a new business.
That obviously didn’t work, either. The show veered further and further away from its original concept, and after a third showrunner came in, Emily Spivey quit because Up All Night had little to do with the show she created. The show was pulled after 11 episodes, put on hiatus, and was being prepped for another reboot because the exec producer, Lorne Michaels, didn’t want to let a talented cast go to waste.
Then it got really weird. They weren’t talking about retooling Up All Night, they were talking about crapping all over it. From TV Guide:
[New show-runner Linda] Wallem and the writing staff began brainstorming ideas for the multi-camera version. One pitch placed a portal between the two worlds — the single-cam and multi-cam versions — that only baby Amy could see. Another idea put Wallem and her real-life partner, Melissa Etheridge, in front of the camera, perhaps with the action taking place in their living room.
Ultimately, a script was written in which Applegate, Arnett and Rudolph played actors portraying the characters Reagan, Chris and Ava on a fictional show called Up All Night. Off the show-within-a-show, Arnett’s character would live at home with his mother, and Applegate’s would be dating. Rudolph’s real-life pregnancy was being written into the storyline — and included a “who’s the daddy?” twist.
First off, I don’t even understand what the hell that first pitch even means. A portal between two worlds that only the baby could see? WHAT. Melissa Etheridge? Where did that even come from?
But it’s the second pitch that makes even less sense, because it was serious: They would have the real actors playing characters in a show-within-a show, but in the show itself, Will Arnett would play himself living with his Mom while the real-life fictional Applegate would be dating? Huh? And a “Who’s your daddy?” twist? I bet they were even considering letting viewers vote on who the Dad would be because that’s how stupid the idea is.
Anyway, it was the second concept — and the fact that it was being written and prepped for actual production — that eventually drove Christina Applegate away.
I think Christina got wind of the kooky things going on,” one source says. Applegate’s reps declined comment, but in a statement released after she quit, the actress said, “The show has taken a different creative direction and I decided it was best for me to move on to other endeavors.”
Thank God she managed to maintain her sanity and quit.