A musical romantic comedy set in New York City in the waning days of 1999, following the extraordinary story of one ordinary couple, as they fall in love – and discover that the single greatest obstacle to finding happiness together might just be themselves – and the treacherous world of memories, obsessions, fears, and fantasies that lives inside their heads. Up Here is written by Steven Levenson (tick, tick…BOOM!, Dear Evan Hansen) and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel (The Carmichael Show) with song writing duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Frozen, WandaVison) writing original songs. Given all the talent and credentials that had come together to make this show, it is incredibly disappointing.
Up Here is marketed as a romantic comedy, but none of its eight episodes are funny. Some of the humour with Lindsay (Mae Witman) or Miguel (Carlos Valdes) falls flat. Witman is essentially reprising her role in her 2015 movie, The Duff. Lindsay is a quirky, aspiring writer who moves to New York on the spur of the moment, abandoning her fiancé and the life she had planned. Although Lindsay is eccentric, Miguel lacks personality aside from the fact that he wants to advance in his financial career while crying as he has his first sexual encounter with Lindsay.
A romantic comedy is supposed to make you laugh at least once, but Up Here was unsuccessful with that task. The first four episodes are the same. Miguel and Lindsay meet, they spend time together, and they hate each other. The next encounter has them meet up, spend time together, and then hate each other again. It’s an endless loop for the first four episodes, and even when that cycle comes to a sudden halt, viewers will still be left annoyed.
As a fan of musical comedies with heavy messages like Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Schmigadoon, Up Here should have checked all the boxes. Unfortunately, the show’s writers appear to be unsure of what they want from it. The idea that each character has three musical voices in their heads is intriguing, but they aren’t used effectively enough for this to work. Celeste (Sophia Hammons) and Renee (Emilia Suárez) are the only characters who can be saved from the voices in their heads, but only because of their vocal abilities. The idea of having different voices in your head, representing the worst parts of yourself, was interesting but fizzled out as the season progressed.
Witman and Valdes play the two leads and have the most musical numbers, which is unfortunate. Both of their voices are flat, and the songs are forgettable. Crazy Ex Girlfriend and even Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist demonstrate how to combine a musical comedy with serious issues, which Up Here fails to do. The vocals were some of the series’ biggest let-downs. Valdes isn’t a bad singer, but some of his songs do not suit his vocal range. Witman is clearly not a singer, as she frequently sounds as if she is straining her voice and missing notes. Perhaps the show could have benefited from a little more autotune.
The comedic aspect of Up Here also does not meet the basic criteria of being funny. Witman’s comedy is clearly quirky, something that had worked in The Duff, but it does not transition well to her roles that are past the teenage plot line. When Up Here tries to do the odd joke, it’s usually done in song form. It’s hard to tell if the comedic aspect of the show is the majority of actors failing to hit their notes.
Overall, Up Here seems to be having an identity crisis with its own narrative and aim. The show could have been so much more, but instead it went with the cliché of a lost woman going to New York City to find herself but realizing it’s harder than she imagined. There is no truly likeable character, and if the songs were good enough, they could have made up for a lot of issues.
We normally give an MVC to celebrate a stand-out character but there is not one character or performance that is worthy. The main characters are too and boring to have the title defaulted.