Fall TV Fun: “Back to You”

Grade:  B

I hardly needed to watch Back to You to know what I thought.  Assembled on set from parts made elsewhere, this is the sitcom that unites Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton as themselves…I mean, as a pompous local-news anchor who returns to his old station in disgrace, and a brittle local-news anchor who doesn’t like having her turf invaded.  (Respectively.)  The marketing pitch was probably “You know what you’re getting into.”

I was surprised, though, that I liked it.  Or at least I was entertained.  It’s kind of like Ron Howard’s adaptation of The Da Vinci Code:  though it’s not very original and a lot of it is preposterous, it moves along with confidence and efficiency.  I could see the jokes coming about ten seconds ahead of delivery, but the fact that they always arrived on cue was impressive by itself.

Maybe I’ve just lowered my standards since watching K-Ville.

Anyway, the twist, which producers apparently asked TV writers not to reveal ahead of time, is not that Grammer and Heaton—I’m not even going to bother with the names of their “characters”—had sex, but that their one-night stand bore fruit in the form of a daughter.  I caught this one ten seconds ahead of delivery, but really, that’s slow on the uptake.  What else could it have been?  The chemistry that local-news anchors are required to feign with each other was always going to be the motherlode for this show, so it’s not surprising that Back to You wants to literalize that chemistry in the form of a moppet.  Grammer (or at least his character) meets the girl for the first time on the day of his return broadcast, and it looks like the revelation throws him for a loop.

It’s nice that Back to You wants to show the softer side of its unpleasant leads.  On the other hand—well, I’m with Entertainment Weekly:  there’s so much to be said about local-news hell that I’d rather the show skip the well-trod avenues of parental travails.  Still, the fact that I want this show to do anything at all besides leave the air as soon as possible?  A bit of a surprise.  Not a replacement Veronica Mars—oh, hell no—but if it makes it to syndication, I’d admit to watching an episode here and there.

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