It is hard to predict whether Buffalo viewers will fall in love with Kelsey Grammer's new Fox sitcom, "Back to You," but they certainly would have loved his defense of the area here Sunday.
The defense from the former star of "Cheers" and "Frasier" came after Christopher Lloyd, the co-creator of "Back to You," explained why the setting of the series about a former L.A. anchor on a downward job spiral was switched from Buffalo to Pittsburgh.
"No offense to any Buffalonians here, but we thought that would have been too far for him to fall," said Lloyd.
Somehow, I doubt that Channel 2 weatherman Kevin O'Connell -- who returned to his native Buffalo after a stint in Los Angeles -- would have laughed as loudly as the nation's TV critics even if Lloyd was just referring to market size.
"I particularly wanted to do Buffalo," interrupted Grammer. "I've spent some time there."
The remark got more laughter before critics realized he was being serious.
"Unfortunately -- no, I really did love it there," continued Grammer. "But it was too much like [the Jim Carrey movie] 'Bruce Almighty.' "
After the session, Grammer appeared to have a memory lapse about his last visit to Buffalo.
"I'm trying to think of specific years, '77," said Grammer. As in the Blizzard of '77? "Oh, yeah," said Grammer. "I remember trudging through the blizzard. I was at the Studio Arena Theatre."
However, a biography on the Internet suggests Grammer's memory is less accurate than local TV news. It says that Grammer played at the Studio Arena twice -- in a 1980 production of "The Mousetrap" and a 1984 production of "Arms and the Man." But, hey, the man's heart is in the right place even if his memory failed him. He loves Buffalo.
"Absolutely," said Grammer. "I fell in love there twice. It's a wonderful town. I can't say enough about it. The Anchor Bar. I went there every night and had wings."
Then making a "Bruce Almighty" reference, Grammer added about Buffalo: "It's nice to know that God is there."
Grammer and his new co-star, Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), are being portrayed as saviors of the traditional sitcom. They play co-anchors, Chuck Darling and Kelly Carr, with a romantic past that may be rediscovered now that he has returned to his former Pittsburgh station after getting fired from his big market job.
Co-creators Steve Levitan ("Just Shoot Me") and Lloyd ("Frasier") disagreed on its setting.
Lloyd championed Buffalo. Why?
"Because from what I know of it, there is a great sort of civic pride and maybe even bit of an underdog quality," said Lloyd. "People think it snows there all the time. I would imagine if you lived there, you are fighting that image a little bit.
"From the audience standpoint, that is sort of a great place for him to go from Los Angeles to landing in the snow in Buffalo and looking around and saying, 'How did I wind up here?' There is also a sort of a rich cultural tradition there that seemed like a good thing. Again without demeaning the city, it made us root for the character to have [him] stuck in Buffalo."
Levitan championed Pittsburgh, where a friend of his anchors the news. He also felt that Buffalo had been used before.
"There was 'Buffalo Bill.' That bothered me," said Levitan. "I didn't even know that 'Bruce Almighty' was set in Buffalo . . . I think Pittsburgh is the right size market. Pittsburgh is a little bit of a punch line but yet an extremely visible city, so you know why somebody would stay there. I'm sure Buffalo is a great place. I've never been, I wasn't trashing Buffalo."
Sure he wasn't. But I imagine the series might have trashed Buffalo if the city had beaten out Pittsburgh. This appears to be one case of Buffalo winning by losing.
A Western New Yorker has created one of the fall's hottest shows. Michelle Fazekas, a 1989 graduate of Williamsville East, is the co-creator of "Reaper," a new drama about a 21-year-old whose parents sold his soul to devil before he was born, which is getting terrific buzz here.
The talk is so positive that critics feel it can even get viewers to understand where its network, the CW, is on the dial. In Buffalo, it is on WNLO-TV, Channel 23 and cable 16 in East Amherst, where Fazekas' parents live. There will be much more on Fazekas sometime soon.