Winona Ryder is over forty, the movie Clerks was released 18 years ago and Kelly Bundy is a mommy. Generation X isn’t approaching middle age; it’s hit it harder than the power chords in the opening riff of Smells like Teen Spirit. While their more celebrated predecessors–the baby boomers–marked their ascent into midlife with seemingly a decade’s worth of films (The Big Chill for starters) and television series (thirtysomething anyone?) and documenting each and every new grey hair along the way. Gen X has had little cultural fanfare as it makes the transition into the land of reading glasses and high fiber diets.
NBC’s Up All Night is one of the few artistic landmarks for this aging cohort that once upon a time (once upon a time being the 90’s of course) produced artists such as Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day(still going strong, though not strong-er) Quentin Tarantino, David Foster Wallace, to name a few. But the 90s are to now what the 70s were to then, and youth and ennui come easy for the media and quicker than you can say Hit Me Baby, One More Time, a long time ago, Gen X became yesterday’s news.
In many ways Up All Night is a distillation of all things wrong and right, good and bad about a generation that intentionally went out of its way not to be anything like their predecessors. Of course I’m painting with broad strokes here but indulge me here the same way my babybooming parents did (“That’s the problem,” my dad, and millions of other boomer parents would utter at this point). While the boomers were all about taking charge and making a difference, Gen X has been a wave of well intentioned apathy disillusionment and avoidance of power. That’s Up All Night in a nutshell, as it follows the adventures of Chris and Reagan Brinkley (Will Arnett and Christina Applegate), as they make their belated and reluctant foray into parenthood. Chris and Reagan, of the 40ish persuasion, are desperate to hold on to remnants of their wild and crazy elongated post-collegiate party years while still wanting to do right by their daughter Amy.
Arnett and Applegate, while not exactly stretching their comedic muscles, are perfect as the semi-stunted adolescent protagonists, which combined with solid writing and the always hilarious Maya Rudolph as Reagan’s boss and best friend, Ava show makes for entertaining and thoughtful television comedy. A must see for those dragging their feet all the way into middle age or anyone who prefers to avoid responsibility at all costs.