Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton

A lot of TV insiders seem surprised that Fox canceled "Back to You" a couple of weeks ago. Shocked might even be a better word for it.

Frankly, I'm sort of surprised that this came as such a shock. The ratings weren't good and neither was the show.

(Of course, "good" is a relative term. And, yes, it can leave you flummoxed to think that Fox canceled "Back to You" and renewed "'Til Death.")

"Back to You" had plenty of star power both in front of the camera and behind it. Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") and Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") headlined the half hour, which was produced by Christopher Lloyd ("Frasier") and Steve Levitan ("Just Shoot Me").

But what resulted from this pooling of talent was a pedestrian sitcom that seemed old and tired the day it debuted.

It wasn't awful, but it wasn't good. It wasn't the worst, but perhaps it was the most disappointing show that debuted on any network last fall. The writers' strike certainly didn't help, but when Fox aired "Back to You's" 14th and, perhaps, final episode on May 14, it wasn't a big improvement on the not-so-good pilot.

(There are a couple more episodes that haven't aired, and Fox has not announced any plans to put them on the schedule. They will, no doubt, end up on the DVD.)

Whatever the show's strengths and shortcomings, it was doomed from the start — actually, several months before the start — because it was on the wrong network.

In a postmortem interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Levitan acknowledged the obvious truth.

"We've been on the wrong network from the start," he said. "We got talked into it. That was our blunder. (Fox is) a network that appealed to a different kind of people than we're aiming for."

To which we can only say, "Duh!"

"This show is completely out of place on Fox," I wrote last September. "It might fit on CBS's Monday-night lineup, but a show where the combined ages of the two leads is 101 is not what the Fox audience is looking for."

And, no, I'm not claiming any great foresight. I was hardly the only one expressing doubts about "Back to You" on Fox last fall.

Both ABC and CBS bid on the show, but Fox Studios sold it to the Fox network ... and the show's fate was sealed.

By the way, while there were reports that Fox Studios was shopping the show to other networks — particularly CBS — those talks have gone nowhere. CBS did not pick up "Back to You" for either its fall or midseason schedule. And now there's word that Grammer has signed on to star in an ABC comedy pilot — he'll play an eccentric billionaire in "Roman's Empire," the Americanization of a British sitcom.

In the end, it didn't help that Grammer and Heaton were on "Back to You." And not just because they didn't come cheap — making "Back to You" a relatively expensive prospect for the network — but because their presence raised expectations for the show higher than they might otherwise have been.

Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly told reporters that canceling the sitcom "was not an easy decision. But with that kind of top-profile talent and ... proximity to ('American Idol') in the second half of the season, the expectations were higher."

Reilly, by the way, was the president of NBC Entertainment when "Back to You" was shopped to all the networks in early 2007. And NBC was the only one of the Big Four that didn't show much interest in the sitcom.


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