Review: Back To You 1.1

Back To You

In the US: Wednesdays, 8/7c, Fox

In the UK: Channel 4 and E4 from January, probably on Fridays

Y’all remember Zeno’s paradox right. Okay, not the actual one, but the one on Knight Rider. You know, the one about what happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object?

Here we would appear to have not one, not two, not three but four unstoppable forces/immovable objects. On the one hand, we have Kelsey Grammer, whose Frasier was a delight to all who watched it. Surely any sitcom he appears in must be comedy genius, almost guaranteed, particularly when one of the exec producers is Christopher Lloyd, who also exec produced Frasier?

But then we have Patricia Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond. Ah. Not a terrible actress. Some might even say quite a good comedy actress. But exposure to that level of awfulness for so long might have made her radioactively bad – so much so that any sitcom she comes into contact with withers on the vine.

Then there’s Fox. Name a good sitcom on Fox. You can’t, can you? Because the only returning sitcom they have from last year’s crop is Til Death, and I’m not touching that without a full biowar suit and 30 minutes’ warning.

So what happens when Kelsey Grammer and Christopher Lloyd meet Patricia Heaton and Fox in a sitcom like Back To You? Comedy gold or comedy doom?

Plot (read from the Fox web site autocue)

In the ’90s, the local TV news scene in Pittsburgh was dominated by one team: CHUCK DARLING (Kelsey Grammer, “Frasier,” “Cheers”) and KELLY CARR (Patricia Heaton, “Everybody Loves Raymond”). They had that elusive quality all news teams need: chemistry. at least on-screen. Off-screen, Chuck was a bit of a self-centered womanizer, Kelly a bit of an uptight know-it-all. So when Chuck got the call to move up to a larger market, no tears were shed.

But after an embarrassing on-air tirade ended up on the internet, Chuck found himself on the downswing career-wise. He even questioned whether his lifestyle of chasing women and living in hotels was as exciting as it used to be. So when he got the call to return to Pittsburgh, to reunite with Kelly and try to take the newscast back to No. 1, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Back in Pittsburgh, Chuck has a couple of new co-workers: RYAN CHURCH (Josh Gad), the overstressed news director and MONTANA DIAZ HERRERA (Ayda Field, “Studio 60”), the perky, sexy weather anchor. There are also familiar faces like MARSH McGINLEY (Fred Willard, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Best In Show”), the affable, endlessly inappropriate sports anchor, and GARY CREZYZEWSKI, pronounced Kre-shoov-ski (Ty Burrell, “In Good Company,” “Out of Practice”), the perennially put-upon field reporter who always seems to get left out in the snow. But, mostly, there’s Kelly, now a single mom to 10-year-old GRACIE (Laura Marano, “Without a Trace”). There was magic between them once. Can they find it again?

BACK TO YOU is created, written and executive-produced by Steven Levitan (“Just Shoot Me!” “Frasier,” “Wings”) and Christopher Lloyd (“Frasier,” “The Golden Girls”).

Is it any good?

For the most part, no. It’s obvious comedy written in the standard style of all second-rate sitcoms: characters walk on, insult each other with one-liners, then walk off again. There’s no real depth to any of the characters beyond Grammer’s and Heaton’s and the usual tedious stereotypes have been mined to produce them: sports reporters are stupid; the Internet guy is a fat nerd with social problems who fancies the hot Latina weathergirl who just wants to be taken seriously but still needs to know the guy in charge wants to sleep with her (and tells everyone this); and the outside reporter with the funny European name is bitter and twisted.

It’s comedy by numbers.

This would be almost forgivable if the one-liners were witty, there were some sort of spark or camaraderie between the principals or the plot was interesting. But it’s not. There’s just shouting. It’s like Stacked without breast jokes.

Oh dear. That’s pretty thin.

So a very disappointing start. Still, it’s not a totally empty beginning. There was the occasional moment of subtlety when Grammer was by himself. Fred Willard was amiable enough in the same role he played in the infinitely better Anchorman. And there’s a good enough situation for a true sitcom to emerge. There might be even be a possible salvation in the form of the will they-won’t they (again) sub-plot that seems inevitable, but’s just a little bit icky, too, given the principals. I’m just expecting it to go an entirely predictable route instead.

Let’s pray for a miracle.

Here’s a great big stonking YouTube promo for you.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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