and local civic boosters must have been grinding their teeth with the depiction of Pittsburgh as “the minor leagues” of local television.
Hey, Hollywood, we’re a top-25 TV market, for heaven’s sake. It’s not like the show was set in Lima, Ohio. (Sorry, Lima, but you’re Nielsen market No. 185.)
And there were a number of Pittsburgh bloopers … reference was made to “the highway patrol” (Pennsylvania doesn’t have one) and a scene in front of “the Allegheny County Courthouse” was done with the worst special effects I’ve seen since William Shatner wrestled with cotton-ball tribbles on “Star Trek.”
By now, everyone in town knows the set-up of “Back to You.” Chuck Darling (Kelsey Grammer) was Pittsburgh’s leading TV anchor before heading off to bigger jobs in Dallas, Minneapolis (Minneapolis?! Sheesh.) and Los Angeles, where he flamed out after a spectacular, on-air, profanity-laden tirade at another reporter.
He’s forced to return, hat in hand, to Pittsburgh, where he’s reunited with his old flame Kelly Carr (Patricia Heaton), who’s understandably resentful at sharing the spotlight again with Grammer:
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t step down from that job in Los Angeles,” he tells her, dripping sincerity, in last night’s pilot. “I was fired.”
“Oh, who are you kidding?” she fires back. “We all saw it on YouTube.”
“I was hoping that would get lost in the hoopla over ‘Baby Falls Off of Soapy Dog,'” he mutters.
It’s impossible to judge the quality of a series from just one episode. Plenty of shows offered strong pilots, but couldn’t go the distance.
“Back to You” shows a lot of promise, even if Grammer is playing a slightly more acidic version of Frazier Crane, and the pilot sets up a few possibilities for great continuing storylines. I’d like to see more of the frustrated reporter (Ty Burrell) who thinks he should be in the anchor chair. And then there’s the daughter Grammer’s character didn’t realize he had. Good writers and producers (and “Back to You” has them, in spades) are able to mine premises like those for years.
If the next six episodes maintain the level of quality set by the pilot, “Back to You” might turn out to be the best sitcom set in a radio or TV station since “WKRP in Cincinnati.” (I thought “NewsRadio” was pretty dreadful; though “Murphy Brown” started strong, it faded fast.)
But Fox has a terrible record at developing quality sitcoms. “Back to You” was followed last night by the return of “‘Til Death,” the Joely Fisher-Brad Garrett “comedy” that should receive a merciful death and be put out of the audience’s misery.
And there has been some criticism — rightfully so — that “Back to You” breaks absolutely no new ground. It’s a three-camera sitcom with a laugh track in an era when critics are praising “cinéma vérité” sitcoms like “My Name is Earl,” “The Office” and “30 Rock.” (It should be noted that those “cinéma vérité” sitcoms are largely being ignored by audiences.)
So I’ll give “Back to You” a solid “B,” and keep my fingers crossed that the next few episodes stay strong.
No one else but me, by the way, seems to appreciate the irony of a sitcom about a local TV newsroom airing on the only Pittsburgh network TV affiliate that had a newscast, and then fired the entire news team.
Oooh! I just got another great idea for a TV comedy set in Pittsburgh:
- A stingy, right-wing media conglomerate launches a laughably bad newscast (including a sportscaster who’s a part-time pro wrestler) on its Pittsburgh station. Employees struggle mightily to gain respectability under unbearable conditions, including the penny-pinching managers who force the station to run ranting, neoconservative editorials delivered from the corporate headquarters.
I know — that’s just too ridiculous. Never mind.
(Commentary/review by Jason Togyer)
I’ve got a can’t-miss idea for a sitcom set inside a Pittsburgh TV station:
- In the early ’70s, an endearing but gruff, bald, middle-aged newscaster from Texas is teamed up with a young, handsome newcomer and a gravelly-voiced weatherman. Together they keep tabs on a cast of lovable oddballs, including a flamboyant announcer and game-show host who (in the third episode) hatches a scheme to defraud the Pennsylvania Lottery.
Too far-fetched? OK, try this one:
- A cantankerous but hard-working news anchor becomes famed for his malaprops and on-air sarcastic comments. Comedy ensues when his glamorous but equally strong-willed daughter, also a TV reporter, returns from out-of-town and is united on the air with him! Quipsters call them “Patti ‘n Daddy.”
Nah, people wouldn’t believe that, either. Instead we’re stuck with “Back to You,” the new Fox sitcom set inside fictional WURG-TV (9). It debuted last night on WPGH-TV (53) and WWCP-TV (8) in Johnstown …