Tuned In

Test Pilot: Back to You

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Sam Jones/FOX

Test Pilot is a semiregular feature this summer sharing my first impressions of the pilots for next fall’s shows. These aren’t reviews, since these pilots may be rewritten, recast and reshot before airing, and end up much better or worse. But, premature opinions are why God invented the Internet, so let’s get on with…

The Show: Back to You, Fox

The Ostensible Premise: A decade after moving on from Pittsburgh to bigger things in L.A., news anchor Chuck Darling (Kelsey Grammer) returns to his old gig when an on-air outburst loses him his job. There he’s teamed with his old coanchor/adversary/one-drunk-night-lover Kelly Carr (Patricia Heaton). Can they keep it together on air and off?

The Real Premise: You liked these famous actors in their old sitcoms, so we’re betting you’ll like them here.

First Impressions: Last year, Fox imported Everybody Loves Raymond’s Brad Garrett into its marital sitcom ‘Til Death, and the transformation of Fox into CBS continues with this unusually (for Fox) conventional workplace sitcom. Conventional doesn’t necessarily mean bad, even if it’s not to my taste, and there’s something to be said for old sitcom pros doing what they do well in a format you know well (here, a mashup of the premises of WKRP in Cincinnati, Buffalo Bill and, well, Frasier, among others). Grammer and Heaton slip into these roles like they’re comfortable old suits. (Bonus points for casting Fred Willard too.) And the banter is quick–almost too distractingly Frasier-like–though every minute or so there’s a very broad joke (like an overused one about the slutty Latina weathergirl) to remind you that you are, in fact, watching Fox.

Do I Want to Watch Another One? Well… I’ll watch it before I watch another ‘Til Death.