Some might call “Back to You” an “old-fashioned” sitcom â€” meaning it relies on a laugh track, is not filmed as if it were a documentary and features Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, veterans of three of the longest-running, most beloved comedy series on television. The chemistry between the two co-stars is undeniable and refreshing.
After an upward career trajectory that takes him to Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas across the country, Grammer’s character, Chuck Darling, is fired after a freakout on national television and returns to his old newsroom in Pittsburgh 10 years after leaving. His co-anchor, Kelly Carr (Heaton), still harbors some resentment stemming from a one-night stand the night before Darling left and is less than thrilled to have him back in the seat next to her. Hilarity ensues.
The “secret” plot twist â€” which critics were implored to keep under wraps â€” should be obvious to anyone with any sense of television drama within the first 15 minutes.
The show bears a slight resemblance to Aaron Sorkin’s “Sports Night,” with the unifying theme of co-workers in a broadcast newsroom. But because such excellent shows as “The Office,” “30 Rock” and “Arrested Development” have strayed from the “classic sitcom” format, the overexuberant laugh track on “Back to You” often detracts from some of the one-liners. Truly funny moments â€” such as when â€” lose some of their impact when the laugh track compels the audience to chuckle at overexaggerated Spanish accents and sweaty armpits.
The pilot episode takes some hilarious not-so-subtle jabs at stereotypical elements of broadcast news â€” cheesy banter between anchors, reporters performing DUI demonstrations and correspondents standing out in torrential rain and in front of empty buildings to make a story more “compelling.”
Fred Willard reprises a role he’s perfected over the years, that of the oblivious blowhard, as a weatherman who still throws up before every broadcast. Willard is at his comedic best when improvising (as in Christopher Guest films like “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show), and it’s obvious he’s restraining to keep in line with the script, but he still provides a nice foil to the uptight Darling.
The series certainly can’t be called groundbreaking, or even particularly innovative. But for anyone looking for a good old-fashioned laugh, “Back to You” is good news.