- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back to basics

Two of the season’s most promising new series premiere tonight, one a comedy, the other a drama.

First, the funny stuff — and “Back to You,” bowing on Fox at 8, is funny.

The sitcom stars Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton as Pittsburgh television news anchors reunited after 10 years. Chuck Darling (Mr. Grammer) moved on to Los Angeles, but was fired after a mistaken on-air rant was seen by millions on YouTube.

Wading through the rash of new shows, it’s refreshing to watch consummate professionals at work. Mr. Grammer spent an almost flawless 11 seasons as “Frasier,” while Miss Heaton spent nine on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” The supporting cast is not too shabby, either, with Christopher Guest collaborator Fred Willard and Ty Burrell (“Out of Practice”), who specializes in the drive-by punch line.

Add a punchy script by “Frasier” writers Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, and you have a sure winner.

The CW may finally have a winner, too. The new network’s new shows didn’t fare too well in its first year. “Runaway” was canceled early, and the network surprised everyone by renewing the low-performing “The Game.” This year, though, the network has some buzzworthy shows, like “Gossip Girl,” premiering at 9 tonight following the season premiere of perennial favorite “America’s Next Top Model.”

“Gossip Girl,” based on the best-selling books, centers on upper-crust students on New York’s Upper East Side. These are rather adult high schoolers. The series opens when “it girl” Serena returns from a year of boarding school. She’s still dealing with the demons she left behind: a tendency toward alcoholism and a night of passion with her best friend’s boyfriend.

The tone is very much “The O.C.” meets “Sex and the City.” The Manhattan setting means girls as obsessed with clothes as their progenitors in “Sex,” with soapy plot lines straight out of California. As in “The O.C.,” whose creator Josh Schwartz co-created “Gossip Girl,” the parents have stories of their own.

Whenever the show goes deep, it’s quickly reined in, as when one character tells another, “Easy, Socrates.”

Hey, this is supposed to be pure guilty pleasure, after all.

The titular blogger whom everyone is reading on Sidekicks is voiced by Kristen Bell, who was the title character of another show the CW canceled last year — “Veronica Mars.”

Fox tops week

In prime-time ratings, Fox attracted the highest number of viewers last week, averaging 6.5 million viewers, Associated Press reported yesterday. NBC was second with 6.2 million, followed by ABC with 5.3 million, the CW with 2.1 million and My Network TV with 1.2 million.

CBS‘ final figures were delayed, Nielsen Media Research said yesterday.

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision averaged 3.2 million viewers, Telemundo had 1.3 million, TeleFutura 650,000 and Azteca 110,000.

For the week of Sept. 10 through 16, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: 1) “NBC Sunday Night Football,” NBC, 15.3 million; 2) “Emmy Awards,” Fox, 12.9 million; 3) “60 Minutes,” CBS, 11.5 million; 4) “Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick,” NBC, 11 million; and 5) “Two and a Half Men,” CBS, 9.9 million.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff and Web reports.

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