Up All Night already has a nice comedic ensemble cast, led by veterans Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph. The chemistry they have and the things they do together can be wonderful and outright funny. That is put to the test in “Hiring And Firing”, the most recent episode of NBC’s freshman sitcom, as Molly Shannon guest stars as Nancy, the worst television production assistant ever.
Nancy is a hurricane of awfulness who can’t speak on the phone and write down a message at the same time, who forgets to book guests their return flights back home, and returns cars that were meant to be given away as prizes because the color was “ugly”. She is so disruptive to the goings on behind the scenes of the “Ava” show, that Ava herself wants her fired. But Reagan, knowing that Nancy is a single mom who looks up to her, doesn’t have the heart to do so.
And cue dilemma. A long, excruciating one, despite the fact that the episode is only 20-22 minutes long. This main plot fails to click in three fundamental ways:
1.) It centers around a “Special Guest Star”. Who really cares what happens to Nancy? We haven’t been following her for nine episodes. And sure, her presence affects both Ava and Reagan but once she is out of the picture, things will immediately go back to the way they were. It adds nothing to their characters in the same fundamental way Reagan’s parents did for her a couple of episodes ago or Kevin (Jason Lee) did for Ava last week.
2.) Molly Shannon’s portrayal of Nancy as annoyingly bad elicits no sympathy. She is a terrible employee but the act of bringing her 10-year-old daughter to work also seems manipulative. I don’t know if it was her acting choice or she was straddle with a below-average script but that kept her character in a muddled zone. So which is she: simply awful or Machiavellian? If a clear choice was made on someone’s part — Shannon or the writers — then we could have a better understanding of her character.
3.) A modern working woman or man who held an executive position would have immediately fired Nancy. Reagan, on the other hand, wouldn’t let her go. That part is a bit muddled as well. Does she really have sympathy for the woman or is her ego being stroked?
The two things did work with regards to this plot, so let’s not fret: Ava finally becomes the voice of reason, even if it’s for an episode and Missy’s (Jennifer Hall) hilariously obscene outbursts every time she thought she was being fired. (Don’t ever get on her bad side. The F-bombs drop like leaves in Fall.)
The Chris (Will Arnett) subplot was quick and painless though: He feels underappreciated by Amy (and believes that she’s learned the ability to call him a “jerk”). Reagan suggests that they hire a full-time babysitter so that he and their newborn could spend a couple of hours apart each day. Chris is okay with it but he has a long list of demands, disqualifying very good candidates for various reasons (like “being a dude” and having “body art”). He and Reagan eventual settle on a very attractive young woman (so attractive that Chris can’t form decent sentences around her) with a psych degree but even she turns out to be a no-go because she’s into The Grateful Dead (which means she may smoke pot!).
The two plots do come together neatly (it is called “Hiring and Firing” after all) when Reagan realizes that Nancy is much better with kids than she is in the showbiz world. And TA-DA! Instant babysitter.
And that’s how the tale of the previously unknown and unseen babysitter is told. Maybe if we were introduced to Nancy a couple of episodes back already in her capacity as the Amy’s caretaker and “Hiring and Firing” were a flashback episode then maybe it would have worked. But it didn’t and that’s not really a big deal. There are 13 more episodes this season and as we know, not everyone has to be a winner.
But before I end this review, I must make note of the fact that Up All Night will be moving to Thursdays at 9:30pm Eastern in January, switching with the much dreaded Whitney. Even though it’s been doing decently well in the ratings (for NBC, anyway) the hope is the show could pick up a couple of ratings point by following the not-yet-unpopular The Office. I’ve grown found of the show — despite my review of this episode — and would like to see it come back next season.
(And yes, I too am very upset that Community was left of the mid-season schedule. Because why have one of the best shows on the air when you could have terrible singing contests judged by the most douche-y Conservative Country has-been AND the most douche-y Liberal pretend-Rock front man? Lord knows we need more of those.)