I realized while watching last week’s episode of Up All Night, which stunk by the way, that the ever-widening gap between America’s rich and the rest of us has reached such a humungous birth, it has now pushed its way into pop culture. A goofball sitcom like Up All Night is supposed to be a show to which most Americans can relate. After all, it centers on two new parents trying to adjust to the demands of juggling work, marriage and taking care of a baby. Surely that basic human experience transcends the barriers between financial status and social class, doesn’t it? Actually, no. Because the parents of little Amy, who is, as her TV dad (Will Arnett) said, 0 years old, aren’t worried about finding a babysitter or paying for daycare. Their big concern this week was getting their daughter a spot in an expensive private preschool, a seat she won’t be ready to fill for another 3 or 4 years (the waiting list is years-long, naturally), in an effort to increase her chances of getting into Harvard some 17 or 18 years down the road. Is the average American supposed to be able to relate to this?
To buy her daughter’s future, Amy’s mom, Reagan (Christina Applegate), offers to organize a charity auction for the fancy preschool during which other rich parents of future Ivy leaguers donate sums of money presumably as large as (or larger than) the annual income of the average adult watching this show on their bargain furniture couch in their 1200 square-foot house in their working class neighborhood. The other story line this week reflects the same sad standard-of-life gap. Arnett’s character, Chris, gets into a pathetic competition with his visiting brother, both of whom chose power careers (lawyer and Wall Street broker, respectively) and now cannot get over their delicate egos enough to admit to each other that they’ve had to forgo professional advancement for personal reasons. Get a clue Hollywood! Those of us in the middle-class can’t afford such stupid vanity. I couldn’t even finish this episode. I shut it off half-way through before the convenient resolutions to the pseudo-problems of the wealthy parents to whom I can’t even try to relate.
I’m not asking that every TV show be another Roseanne or Shameless, though I loved Roseanne and adore Shameless, but at least give us some people we can identify with. I have NOTHING in common with Reagan, other than the fact that we’re both 30-something white chicks living in the U.S. And I have no desire to watch rich people create and then whine about fake problems every week only to pat themselves on the back 22 minutes later for finding the obvious solutions to those stupid non-problems. If I wanted to watch that, I’d have gone to see that awful Sarah Jessica Parker flick (I Don’t Know How She Does It or something – I don’t know, I didn’t see it) last year.
The tag line for Up All Night is: “Sleep is for babies.” Which sounds like something all parents could appreciate, right? Except that not one episode I’ve seen of this show addresses the sleep deprivation all new parents experience. Or the financial adjustment that accompanies parenthood. Just a few days ago at work, one of my co-workers commented that when her kids were young, she and her husband had a hard time adjusting to being broke all the time. Another co worker chimed in: “They sure do suck all your money out of you.” Somehow, I doubt Chris and Reagan could relate to that. Which means that the writers of Up All Night can’t relate to it, which bodes the question, How could they write something most Americans will connect with if they know nothing of the issues most Americans deal with everyday? The answer: they can’t. Which is why Up All Night sucks.
You want another smash hit, Hollywood? Give us something we know. The Office (U.K.) reached syndication in 80 countries around the world and spawned something like 20 remakes (including our own massive success here is the U.S.) because every episode dealt with things that nearly every human being alive has experienced. Don’t expect us to watch the contrived, upper-class problems of the six or seven-figure earners and actually give a shit. It’s like asking a homeless guy to cry for you because you can’t decide which restaurant to take your family out to on Friday night.