It's a fact rarely acknowledged on sitcoms that New Year's Eve is one of the worst holidays. It's amateur hour, and the feeling of needing to make immediate life changes coupled with an open bar rarely makes for a satisfying party. Sure, it can result in a sweeping When Harry Met Sally midnight kiss moment or a fun night out with friends, but more often than not you're going to end up awkwardly eating canapés in a living room of a friend-of-a-friend's room watching the hoards at Times Square freeze and grope each other while someone who downed too many tequila shots at 8:00 pm talks to you slurredly about the social implications of Family Guy. There are too many expectations for it just to be a fun, casual night and, as tonight's episode of Up All Night demonstrates, cozy couple parties can end up just as bumblingly bad as anonymous barf-scented frat boy blowouts.
Up All Night has a lot riding on it as it moves into its new post-Office time slot, and "New Year's Eve" was a nice, if not totally stellar, introduction to the dynamic the show has been setting up all season. The introduction where we see a hilariously goateed Chris and be-hatted Reagan meet for the first time was a nice touch, and the montage of New Year's scenes with spangled drunk Ava interrupting couple time to reassure Chris and Reagan that this year will be the one where nothing bad happens was a good capsule introduction to all the characters for the previously uninitiated.
Game night as the venue for couple issues to come burbling up an old sitcom trope, but it's a true one. Those moments of enforced teamwork over charades have a way of bringing out the worst in people, and emphasizing the tiny tics that start out adorable and end up driving each other bananas. So when Regan suggests an old-fashioned game night for their New Year's Eve plan and Chris half-grimaces, half-makes the face of someone who just remembered his house might be on fire, you pretty much can see what's coming. The premise is a little tired, but it made sense that that Reagan, with her tendency to freak out over micromanaging every situation, would be annoyingly competitive. Will Arnett's beleaguered expression and desperate hiding of the board games--like in a box labeled "old bulbs" for example--were some of the best parts of this plot line.
The Ava and Kevin B-plot was less convincing. Yes, it was hilarious to see Ava in a crown and ermine-trimmed cape--as Missy said, "I'd give anything to wear a cape and have people like it"--but the conflict over Kevin thinking he wasn't fancy enough for her highfalutin' parade-marshaling lifestyle seemed culled straight from the Miranda and Steve section of Sex and the City. It still had its funny moments, in particular Ava yelling out of the sunroof of her limo as the driver executed a 36-point turn, but it felt flat, and not particularly true to their characters. Just last episode, Ava was spying on Kevin through a stranger's household. It doesn't quite make sense that he would be concerned about her not being into him enough in public. But the resolution, where Ava explains to Kevin that she's had her heartbreaks splashed all over the tabloids enough to be wary of publicizing her affection for someone who's not Bobby Brown, managed to strike the right notes for Ava--a little bit haughty, but also sincerely sweet.
Though the storyline between Missy and her J-date won man Isaac was one note, that note being Missy's inexplicable frustration with her comically amazing date, it was nice to see Missy do more than cower and run around satisfying Ava's whims. Her annoying boyfriend was, of course, the most dashing, British pediatric surgeon this side of the Mississippi. "He makes David Beckham look like an actual pile of garbage," Reagan advises her, as Missy rolls her eyes and Isaac runs off to conjure up delicious tapas. I also loved how everyone put on a faux-British accent to speak to him, which is somehow what everyone is tempted to do when they meet someone with a suave foreign accent. (I mean, right?)
Chris and Reagan's breakdown over Chris' failed Rock Star drumming performance led to them doing the most dangerous couple game: enumerating each others tiny, crazy-making faults on a whiteboard. This sort of nit-picking rarely ends well in real life, but as midnight nears, the two decide that they can strike items off their list--Chris' air golf swings, Reagan's overly francophone pronunciation of "Croissant"--and end up making up. It was trite but heartfelt, and it ended the way that all New Year's Eves should: with someone blowing up a roasted chicken with fireworks.