One corner of prime time will be all about baby business starting Wed. Sept. 14 at 10 p.m., when 'Up All Night' starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett debuts on NBC. Although the presence of a newborn on a sitcom used to be either a season finale plot point before the kid was shuffled off-stage or the mark of a show jumping the shark (sorry, "The Office"), this series puts new parenthood and a screaming, pooping baby front and center.
"It's about a period in people's lives, particularly people who've been living a more exciting life, not quite carefree but just thinking about themselves, and then this big change happens. It didn't feel like well-trod territory," executive producer Lorne Michaels ("Saturday Night Live") explained during the TCA panel for the show. "I know Lucy [Ball] had a baby and lots of other shows have, but it's always off stage. This was bringing that time in people's lives and what it's like to be a modern parent at this moment to the forefront. It felt fresher to me."
Given that all three stars (Applegate, Arnett and "SNL" alum Maya Rudolph) plus show creator Emily Spivey have kids under the age of five, the good news is that the show shouldn't slip into cutesy cliche. The focus won't be adorable baby hijinks better left to YouTube but instead what it's like to transition from urban hipster to parent. "I know for myself, I gave birth at 39 so I had many years of being self obsessed and doing what I wanted to do," Applegate said. "People who are 38 and 40 now still say 'dude' a lot. I don't know if we've grown up a lot. We were the first to get the tattoos and our music was different, and I still feel like I'm in my early 20s. It does change things. These later-in-life parents have been doing it their way for a long time, and now they're dong it someone else's way."
Added Spivey, "[The show] was straight out of my life. It came from having a baby, getting promoted at 'SNL' and thinking 'I can do this; I can go back to work and raise my kid,' and it was a real trial. There was a lot of sadness and a lot of hilarity on the other side. Our adolescence has been extended. I was doing 'SNL,' which was a very rock 'n' roll job with lots of late nights and I was having to balance the baby with that lifestyle. Just the working all night then getting in at 5am and your kid is up the next hour. That was straight out of my life."
The stars have already put in their two cents regarding future storylines. "Christina already suggested a hilarious story we're going to do about what to call the baby's no-no place."
Arnett, who admitted to being "up all night, literally" with his own two sick children the night before, joked, "It's a no-no place? I didn't know."
Rudolph, who worked with Spivey at "SNL," says that she'll be contributing stories inspired by her own children. "I have three kids, so I'm a crazy person, and I have three different ages from kindergartner to toddler to newborn. The irony is I'm the one without the kid on the show. But that won't stop me from chiming in."
She also chimed in on the change that was made to her character following the pilot. Her childless, off-kilter PR executive is now a childless, off-kilter Oprah-inspired host of an aspirational TV talk show. "The dynamic doesn't change much [between Applegate and Rudolph], but the office changes a great deal because the dynamic between Christina and Maya is that they aren't partners in a business but partners in a different way," says Michaels. "It's more thought through."
And if Rudolph's show seems familiar, it's not by accident. "It's more on the Oprah track," said Spivey. "She's gonna hit on women's issues. She's a little out of control backstage, but her on screen persona is wanting to enlighten women and be in control."
Rudolph, who parodied Winfrey on "SNL," isn't worried about inspiring the ire of the Queen of All Media. "Oprah was great [during 'SNL']," says Rudolph. "She actually had me go to [her] show. We did a parody of Oprah's favorite things, and she actually said she loved it and she was really happy because I was the first woman to play her,"
"She thanked us for not putting [Rudolph] in a fat suit," Spivey recalled. "I hold her in very high regard. I think when people hear daytime take show, the first word that comes to mind is Oprah, and anybody doing Daytime talk holds her in that high esteem."
Rudolph, unlike her co-stars, won't be able to use her real life for her own character, though. "I just had a child and I'm in a bit of a fog," she sighed when asked for her reaction to the latest Mariah Carey home shopping network fiasco. "I pumped about a half hour ago, So when you say the headlines, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm sure whatever Mariah Carey did was hilarious and I wish her the best."
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