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Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Back To You" DVD Review: See What Could've Been

It should’ve been a sure thing…

Emmy winners Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton starring in a comedy created by Steven Levitan (“Just Shoot Me”) and Christopher Lloyd (“Frasier”), directed by the best sitcom director in TV history, James Burrows and co-starring the funniest man on TV, Fred Willard.

However, sometimes the surest things are the biggest misses…

But here’s the thing. “Back to You” wasn’t really a miss. I know it got cancelled after one season because of poor ratings, but the show was good.

And now, thanks to the DVD release of the series, everyone else can discover that for themselves.

If you never saw it, “Back” starred Grammer as Chuck Darling, an anchorman who had worked his way from Pittsburgh up to LA only to be fired after a YouTube classic outburst. Chuck returns to Pittsburgh to re-team with Kelly Carr (Heaton), who he had a tumultuous relationship with.

The major premise for the show is set up in the closing moments of the pilot as Chuck learns he is the father of Kelly’s daughter, Gracie (Laura Marano), thanks to a one-night stand on Chuck’s last night in Pittsburgh.

You guys probably remember that I was pretty hard on the premise when the show premiered, and I still believe it was a bit of a misstep. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the show was funny.

In fact, it was my plan for this review to just watch a handful of the episodes. But I got so hooked, I had to watch them all.

Grammer and Heaton have loads of chemistry and the supporting cast is extremely solid. Ty Burrell, who plays Gary the investigative reporter, is a true find and Josh Gad, who plays news director Ryan, managed to win me over. Ayda Field is also good in her limited role as Montana, the weatherperson. And it goes without saying that Willard, as sportscaster Marsh, is very funny.

The biggest problem with the show—other than that premise—is that there’s no consistency. The writers decided to get rid of Montana and then decided Gracie should look younger and recast the role with Lily Jackson, who does not measure up to Marano.

And thanks to the Writers’ Strike, the episodes are jumbled. Montana is gone for a few shows and then she’s back. Stories are started and then just dropped. Thankfully, the DVD has the three unaired episodes that fill in the blanks—including the original season finale, which is actually one of the best episodes of the season.

In fact, it’s probably thanks to the Writers’ Strike that “Back” isn’t on the air today. The show was just starting to hit its stride and it was going to get the cushy post-“American Idol” timeslot, where I think it would have thrived.

Now the DVD gives us a chance to see what could have been…

There are also two good featurettes on the DVD. “This Just In” talks about local news and its opportunities for comedy while “Behind the Scenes” gives us a look backstage. However, it’s clear that the latter featurette was done before the cancellation because it just abruptly ends with no mention of it. There’s also a funny gag reel to round out the special features.

If the lack of sitcoms on TV has you looking for a good comedy to watch, then check out “Back To You.”

But don’t be surprised if it doesn’t make you angry at FOX for pulling the plug.

“Back To You” (SRP $39.98) is available now…
Photos Credit: FOX Home Entertainment