NBC‘s sophomore comedy Up All Night will be off all winter, but when it comes back in the spring, it will look and feel different. NBC has decided to convert the family comedy from a single-camera to a multi-camera format. Episode 11, which wraps production next week, will be the last episode of the show in the single-camera form. Production will then shut down for a three-month hiatus to convert the stage and set to multi-cam tapings in front of live audiences, during which time the show’s writers will work on scripts. Up All Night‘s new showrunner this season, Tucker Cawley, comes from a very strong multi-camera background as one of the top writer-producers on CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond, as does Up All Night creator/exec producer Emily Spivey, a Saturday Night Live veteran.
Up All Night will go back into production in February on five multi-camera episodes. That will bring the total for the show’s second season to 16 episodes, up from the original 13 ordered in May. Up All Night will remain on the air until December, when all of the 11 single-camera episodes will have aired. The show will make its multi-camera debut in April/May. A modest ratings performer at best, Up All Night has had a promising ratings uptick in the last two weeks with a 1.4 rating among adults 18-49, building on its 30 Rock lead-in both times.
The idea for the conversion came from Up All Night executive producer and SNL honcho Lorne Michaels, who had been looking for a way to infuse the show with more energy. Another single-camera NBC comedy he exec produces, 30 Rock, has done successful live multi-cam episodes. “We know what the multi-camera audience does for the live episodes of 30 Rock, plus after seeing both Maya and Christina do SNL within the past few months, we knew we had the kind of performers — Will Arnett included — who love the reaction from a live audience,” said NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt. (Up All Night star Christina Applegate recently hosted the late-night comedy show, while her co-star, SNL alumna Maya Rudolph, pops up from time to time for guest appearances.) “We think we can make a seamless tradition to the new format. Also, we’re committed to the multi-camera form and this will give us another show to consider for next season in this new format.” The network has two multi-cam shows on the air right now, freshman Guys With Kids and sophomore Whitney. Both Applegate and Rudolph have extensive experience in front of live audiences — Rudolph from SNL, Applegate from her years on Married… With Children.
While changing the format of a comedy from single- to multi-camera and vice versa is not unusual during the development process and even after the pilot — most recently ABC orered a single-camera version of CBS’ multi-cam pilot Super Fun Night — a switch during a series’ run is extremely rare. Happy Days did it after Season 2. (The series always used a laugh track but switched from single-camera type filming to multi-cam tapings in front of a live audience in Season 3.)
Interestings, the one recent example of such a transition was on NBC, which aired 10 episodes of the low-rated Julia Louis-Dreyfus 2002 single-camera comedy Watching Ellie before putting the show on a long hiatus to retool it as a multi-cam. The multi-camera version fared even worse and was cancelled after 6 episodes.
Applegate’s previous series, ABC’s single-camera Samantha Who? considered adding extra cameras during filming to lower cost while trying to keep the show’s single-camera feel, but the plan was ultimately scrapped and the show cancelled.
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