Monday, September 17, 2007

Fox Fall Pilot Review: Back to You - Premieres September 19th; 59th Annual Emmy Awards Winners

Back to You

Back to You - Wednesdays at 8:00PM ET/PT on Fox
Premieres September 19th at 8:00PM ET/PT

In the ‘90s, the local TV news scene in Pittsburgh was dominated by one team: CHUCK DARLING (Kelsey Grammer) and KELLY CARR (Patricia Heaton). 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. When Chuck grabbed the chance 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 and Kelly reteam with familiar faces including MARSH McGINLEY (Fred Willard), the affable, endlessly inappropriate sports anchor, and GARY CREZYZEWSKI, pronounced Kre-shoov-ski (Ty Burrell), the perennially put-upon field reporter who always seems to get left out in the cold; and they have a few new coworkers: RYAN CHURCH (Josh Gad), the under qualified, overstressed news director, and MONTANA DIAZ HERRERA (Ayda Field), the perky, sexy, somewhat inept weather anchor. But perhaps the biggest change is that Kelly is now single mom to 10-year-old GRACIE (Laura Marano).

There was magic between Chuck and Kelly 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”). James Burrows is executive producer and director. The series is from Levitan/Lloyd Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television.

Cast Details:

Kelsey Grammer as Chuck Darling, Patricia Heaton as Kelly Carr, Fred Willard as Marsh McGinley, Ty Burrell as Gary Crezyzewski, Josh Gad as Ryan Church, Ayda Field as Montana Diaz Herrera, Laura Marano as Gracie Carr

Kelsey Grammer (Chuck Darling) - Kelsey Grammer played the celebrated character "Dr. Frasier Crane" on three different television series ("Frasier," "Cheers" and "Wings") for 20 years, tying James Arness of "Gunsmoke" for the record of longest-running television character. He has won four Emmys, two Golden Globes and a Screen Actors Guild Award for the role, and has received an unparalleled total of 16 Emmy award nominations, eight Golden Globe award nominations and 16 Screen Actors Guild award nominations.

Patricia Heaton (Kelly Carr) - A talented actress whose career spans television, theater and film, Patricia Heaton has been honored with two consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and has been nominated for 11 Screen Actors Guild awards for her portrayal of "Debra Barone" on the top-rated series "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Fred Willard (Marsh McGinley) - Willard has received three Emmy Award nominations for his role as Martin Mull's lover on "Roseanne" and his recurring role on "Everybody Loves Raymond." He also co-starred with Martin Mull in Norman Lear's innovative cult classic talk-show satire, "Fernwood 2Night." Willard had recurring roles on "Ally McBeal," "The Simpsons" and "Mad About You." In addition, he has made more than 50 appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Ty Burrell (Gary Crezyzewski) - Through his ability to play roles ranging from classical Shakespeare to contemporary film, Ty Burrell is quickly establishing himself as a talented and versatile actor who has carved out a diverse career in movies, television and theater. On television, Burrell recently starred in the sitcom "Out of Practice" opposite Stockard Channing and Henry Winkler.

Josh Gad (Ryan Church) - Josh Gad began his career in theater, graduating from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. He then turned his sights to comedy, joining the famed Groundlings Improv troupe and later founding his own group, the Lost Nomads Comedy Troupe. Previous screen credits include a guest role on "ER" and the independent feature "Watching the Detectives" with Lucy Liu.

Ayda Field (Montana Diaz Herrera) - Once she decided upon acting as a career, things happened very quickly for Los Angeles native Ayda Field. On her way home from attending Duke University, she landed an audition on the daytime drama "Days of Our Lives." The audition blossomed into a recurring role on the series that ran over the course of a season. Field's additional television credits include the cable series "Arli$$," "Will & Grace," "Eve," "Blue Collar TV" and a recurring role on "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

Laura Marano (Gracie Carr) - Marano has recurring roles on the television show "Without a Trace," in which she plays Kate, the daughter of Emmy-Award winning actor Anthony LaPaglia's character, and in "Dexter" and "The Sarah Silverman Program." She has guest-starred on television shows including "Ghost Whisperer," "Medical Investigation," "Huff" and "Joan of Arcadia."

Pilot Plot:

1. Pilot (09/19/07) - After an embarrassing newscast tirade ends up on the internet on YouTube, Chuck returns to Pittsburgh to reunite with Kelly at the local network. The show opens with a funny flashback to 1996 where we see Chuck Darling leaving the station for greener pastures. He returns 10 years later and meets the young news director, Brian Church, and the rest of the team and his former co-anchor, Kelly. They swap anchor seats and shoot a promo. We are introduced to Kelly's daughter, Gracie.

Written by: Steven Levitan & Christopher Lloyd
Directed by: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Spencer Knowles (Mail Boy), Adam Busch (Production Assistant), Michael Richard Robinson (Weatherman), Erin Ross (Darcy), Ayda Field (Montana Diaz Herrera)

I also had the opportunity to view the second episode.

2. Fish Story (09/26/07) - There's something fishy going on when Chuck tries to convince a dubious Kelly that he has a responsible, nurturing side. Meanwhile, Gary tries to regain his credibility in the field. He doesn't want to do a segment on tasers.

Analysis:

After watching the first two episodes, I think the show has a lot of potential. It is impossible to compare it to great newsroom sitcoms such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Murphy Brown with such a small sampling, but all of the pieces are here for a long and successful run. Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton are a dynamic duo that have instant chemistry. It is hard to believe they had never worked together before or that they had only met each other once prior to being cast. After playing Frasier Crane for 20 years, Kelsey Grammer gets the chance to play another character in the media. It is somebody who has a different personality than Frasier, but he's not 100% opposite that viewers won't recognize him. Patricia Heaton is beautiful and funny and gets to play a character that is the opposite of Debra Ramone. The supporting cast is very good. Fred Willard is hilarious as the zany and political incorrect sports anchor. He has some of the funniest lines, such as "I'm off - I still throw up before every show." I enjoyed Ty Burrell on "Out of the Practice." He has a funny scene in a taser segment in the second episode. Newcomer Josh Gad plays the young, sweaty news director. He reminds me a little bit of Chris Farley and his character is similar to the enthusiastic and neurotic Miles Silverberg character on Murphy Brown. As if we needed more of it with Patricia Heaton already on board, Ayda Field brings a lot of sex appeal as the weathergirl. She has some funny exchanges with Fred and Ty. Overall, the show just has some very funny writing and a good pace. The pop culture references to YouTube and ringtones in the first two episodes are hilarious. Back to You is filmed before a live studio audience with multiple cameras. There is no canned or added laughter here.

There are a few things that they probably could improve on for future episodes. Although the show is set in Pittsburgh, you would hardly know it. There is the Pittsburgh skyline behind the anchor's desk, but there are very few references to the city. Marsh does mention the Penguins in a news story in the second episode. It would be nice to see some exterior shots of Pittsburgh in the transitions between scenes. The newsroom set looks like a real set, but it appears to be very tiny. Maybe newsrooms are like that in real life, but people are always bumping into each other on the set. Kelly's home is shown in the pilot, but it is not as nice as I would expect a lead anchor to own. The office that Kelly and Chuck share is featured in the second episode, but it doesn't look very big or as elaborate as I expected. I guess with the high salaries of the cast, they didn't have a lot of extra money to furnish those sets with props and items on the walls.

Conclusion:

Back to You will likely be one of the top two highest rated new sitcoms of the fall season. It would be very hard for me to see it failing with such an all-star cast and crew. It may not mark the full return of the multi-camera sitcom format, but it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully we will start to see more in this format that was so popular for the last 40-50 years. Many networks wanted it for their fall schedule. Fox gave it a blind thirteen-episode commitment in February after seeing the script.

Can Grammer and Heaton find the magic of Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond? It looks to be a funny show. When the cast looks like they are having fun and enjoy filming before a live audience, I think that will translate into a show that people will want to watch. Back to You should score an impressive debut. Fox has heavily promoted it, and there is a lot of buzz about it. It will be interesting to see how many viewers they can hold onto for the second episode and in week three when ABC's enchanting Pushing Daisies premieres. Hopefully Back to You is the start of a new golden era of the multi-camera sitcom.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4.5/5
Funniness: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 09/17/07

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday on our message board.

Related Links:

  • FOX.com Official Site
  • Back to You Online
  • Back to You Anchorizer
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Back to You Photo Gallery

    Back to You



    And now I'll throw it back to you, Pavan...

    Here are the winners for the main categories at last night's Emmys.

    COMEDY SERIES
    30 Rock
    Entourage
    The Office
    Two and a Half Men
    Ugly Betty

    WINNER: 30 Rock

    DRAMA SERIES
    Boston Legal
    Grey's Anatomy
    Heroes
    House
    The Sopranos

    WINNER: The Sopranos

    LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES
    Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
    Steve Carell, The Office
    Ricky Gervais, Extras
    Tony Shalhoub, Monk
    Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men
    WINNER: Ricky Gervais, Extras

    LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES
    America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
    Tina Fey, 30 Rock
    Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives
    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
    Mary Louise Parker, Weeds
    WINNER: America Ferrera, Ugly Betty.

    LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES
    James Gandolfini, The Sopranos
    Hugh Laurie, House
    Denis Leary, Rescue Me
    James Spader, Boston Legal
    Kiefer Sutherland, 24
    WINNER: James Spader, Boston Legal

    LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES
    Patricia Arquette, Medium
    Minnie Driver, The Riches
    Edie Falco, The Sopranos
    Sally Field, Brothers and Sisters
    Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
    Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
    WINNER: Sally Field, Brothers and Sisters

    SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES
    Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
    Kevin Dillon, Entourage
    Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
    Jeremy Piven, Entourage
    Rainn Wilson, The Office
    WINNER: Jeremy Piven, Entourage.

    SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES
    Jenna Fischer, The Office
    Conchata Ferrell, Two and a Half Men
    Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
    Jaime Pressly, My Name is Earl
    Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
    Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty
    WINNER: Jaime Pressly, My Name is Earl

    SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES
    Michael Emerson, Lost
    Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos
    T.R. Knight, Grey's Anatomy
    Terry O'Quinn, Lost
    Masi Oka, Heroes
    William Shatner, Boston Legal
    WINNER: Terry O'Quinn, Lost.

    SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES
    Lorraine Bracco, The Sopranos
    Rachel Griffiths, Brothers and Sisters
    Katherine Heigl, Grey's Anatomy
    Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
    Aida Turturro, The Sopranos
    Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy
    OUR PICK: Katherine Heigl, Grey's Anatomy

    Full list of winners can be found HERE!

    COMMENTS: The surprises of the night was James Spader for Lead Actor in a Drama and Katherine Heigl for Supporting Actress in a Drama. Both were underdogs, but won! And it was nice that Sally Field got Lead Actress in a Drama and Terry O'Quinn for Supporting Actor in a Drama. Comedy wise, no surprises really, but Shalhoub didn't win finally for Lead Actor in a Comedy. Actually, Jamie Pressly of My Name is Earl was a bit of a surprise. It was a huge night for ABC. 5 wins for ABC in the above main categories. The Sopranos won for Best Drama, but didn't get any of the acting wins, which is a surprise.

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