I loved tonight’s episode of Up All Night. “Jerry Duty” is the first installment of the second season that’s successfully navigated the reformed structure of the show. It wasn’t gimmicky or too loud or too quiet. It was just right. And here’s why: “Jerry Duty” was all about the picture that we keep in our heads about people, the quick portrait we paint of each other in order to keep ourselves sane. The problem is that people outgrow these portraits in various ways. The portraits contain an essential truth about that person, but they don’t take into account the various tiny ways people grow up.
Scott, for example, is Reagan’s doofy younger brother. In a sense, that’s what he’ll always be. To her, he’ll always be stuck as a 12-year-old, at least in part. As an older sister, she feels obligated to thwart his obvious miscalculations. But she’s so blinded by her own idea of him that she can’t see how he’s matured. He offers her good parenting advice, which she dismisses because of the source. Jerry, meanwhile, can’t see past his idea of Chris as a homesick, dorky roommate, and Chris isn’t able to imagine Jerry as anything more than a hipster wil-o-the-wisp. Who hasn’t been guilty of that? Of overlooking something good because of a preconceived notion of where it’s coming from? Not to get all mushy, but Up All Night captured something honest about relationships with people you have known for a long time. Sometimes, it’s necessary to reassess.
It’s that kernel that fuels Up All Night as a sitcom that not only has funny moments, but is also a work that can really connect with its audience. Reagan’s type-A personality often gets overplayed on this show. But on “Jerry Duty,” I found her over-protectiveness completely believable. She thinks that she has to work overtime to protect her brother from himself. He thinks that he has to steer clear of her hyper-organized ways to avoid becoming “drill sergeant Barbie.” But neither really has it right. Reagan can initiate a game of scream tag for a group of little boys, and Scott knows how to quiet down a crying little girl.
Ava, too, has her moment of realization. She joins Chris to Jerry’s Polygast—that’s short for “Polynesian gastronomy,” y’all—pig roast, and rejects every man she meets. One has an oversized watch, another enoys his potato chips differently. But she can’t let any of them in because of the relationship she imagines Chris and Reagan to have. If a dude can’t measure up to that kind of lifelong relationship then it’s sayonara, bub. Of course, that kind of friendship is one that’s built over a long time, and littered with knowing every tiny annoying flaw the other person has. Reagan lays out a list of Chris’ flaws—too non-confrontational, pointy nose, terrible toenails—that reads, oddly, like a kind of love letter. Ava decides to give Jerry a chance, surprising both her friends. It’s a rare sitcom that manages to touch on a dynamic like this one in a smart, warm, and funny way. “Jerry Duty” accomplished that. No matter how the rest of this season goes, Up All Night will always have that going for it.