At face value, it’s easy to compare Still Up—the new Apple TV+ romantic comedy series about two chronic insomniac best friends, navigating life and love together over the phone at all hours of the night—to another genre benchmark: Sleepless in Seattle. After all, Nora Ephron’s beloved 1993 film also followed a restless man who was beholden to the telecommunications industry (before that became every single one of us, around a decade ago). But Still Up, which premieres Sept. 22, is very different from the film it’ll be measured against.
For starters, the show is set in London, which is famously not Washington’s rainy metropolis, in case you’re not up on your geography. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t enchant in the same way that Ephron’s film does; Sleepless in Seattle slowly shades in the details of its fated romance, but Still Up unspools them at a vexingly slow pace over its eight-episode first season. That’s not to say the show is without its charms—in fact, it’s full of them, thanks to its two perfectly cast leads. But the series has an air of unsustainability, like a scrapped pitch for a Quibi show that has been stretched into half-hour doses instead of 10-minute bites. While Still Up will no doubt delight rom-com fans, its rote storylines and flat jokes will leave most viewers drowsy.
The first few episodes, however, are intriguing enough—until your Ambien kicks in. We’re introduced to Lisa (Antonia Thomas) and Danny (Craig Roberts) at the start of one of their nightly FaceTime calls. The two friends are bonded in their mutual insomnia, and regularly talk until late in the night just to pass the time. As such, they’re immersed in the stranger elements of the world, the kind of things that happen on the fringes of the evening long after the sun has set. Well, at least Lisa is; along with his insomnia, Danny has also become an increasingly rigid agoraphobe. While Lisa is putting the bins out and heading to the all-night pharmacy, walking past drag queens and stragglers getting kicked out of the pub after last call, Danny is at home, wondering if it’s too late to order a pizza.