Friday, November 16, 2007

New TV Shows I'm Still Watching But Don't Know Why, Pt. 2

Back To You

Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton

This week’s installment of New TV Shows I’m Still Watching But Don’t Know Why takes us to the FOX network and its new hit comedy Back To You, Wednesdays 8/7 Central, staring two television comedy legends Kelsey Grammer (Cheers, Fraiser) as Chuck Darling and Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) as Kelly Carr. Both of these veteran actors have won innumerable awards and accolades for their portrayals of Frasier Crane and Debra Barone respectively and now find themselves together on one of the first “traditional” sitcoms to hit the big four channels in quite some time.

The thing I do like about the show, and one of two things that keeps me coming back week after week, is the return to the classic situational comedy (sitcom) structure. Back To You is one of the few, if not only, comedies still taped live in front of a live studio audience. Growing up this was the norm for television, but once comedies moved to the single camera format television moved away from live studio audiences and either used a laugh track or, like Scrubs, My Name Is Earl and The Office, lost the laughing all together. Back To You also harkens back to the lost art of the work place comedy and is very reminiscent of shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Murphy Brown. Who knows, hopefully one day soon Back To You will find the comedic writing those previous two shows thrived on.

Cast of Back To You
To be honest, the show seems way too bogged down with the secondary story line that Darling, after moving back to Pittsburgh and taking over the job he left 12 years ago, finds out he is the father to Carr's child. A daughter he did not even know Carr had. Evidently the two had a fling before he left town and Carr never informed him she got pregnant. It does tie the two main characters together in a unique way (as opposed to the annoying “will they or won’t they” story line most shows use), but really doesn’t lead to much comedy gold.

Fred WillardThe best part of Back To You, and the real reason I’d recommend watching it, is to see Fred Willard in action. No matter what he’s in he cracks me up…and he’s been in almost everything. While becoming famous for his role in the television show Fernwood 2 Night with Martin Mull and then reteaming with Mull in guest appearances on Roseanne, Willard might be best remembered for his many roles in the Christopher Guest films Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration. I read somewhere in an interview with Willard that the role of sports anchor Marsh McGinley was written specifically for him and it really shows. The character seems like an amalgam of all of Willard’s previous character’s best qualities and allows his comedy timing to shine. I find myself laughing any time he speaks, which also happens to be the only time I laugh during the entire show.

Back To YouThat’s sort of my problem with Back To You, for the most part it’s just not funny. But I really like Willard and think Grammer and Heaton do a great job of acting (they're just not all that funny yet). I guess I’m holding out to see if the show’s cast and writers continue to improve, because the show really seems to have a lot of great potential compared to most of the junk on TV nowadays…until that happens or the writer’s strike kills off the remainder of the season, I’ll keep watching and wonder why.

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