May 15, 2008 / 5:10 AM / 10 years ago

Kelsey Grammer lobbies to revive ailing sitcom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Kelsey Grammer, whose latest sitcom, “Back to You,” was canceled by Fox after one season, said on Wednesday he has personally lobbied CBS executives to give his show a second chance on their network.

Kelsey Grammer arrives at Radio City Music Hall in New York, May 16, 2005. REUTERS/Bill Davila

But the Emmy-winning veteran of “Cheers” and “Frasier” is finding that his star power may not be enough to save the newsroom comedy, which Fox announced last week would not return in the fall.

Grammer, 53, told Reuters that he called CBS Corp chief executive Leslie Moonves on Monday to suggest a pickup, and that Moonves told him his network was “thinking about it.”

A follow-up call the next day to Nina Tassler, the CBS Entertainment president, was less encouraging, Grammer said.

“She dismissed it,” he recalled.

So did viewers and many critics.

Grammer plays a pompous TV news anchor who lands back at his old Pittsburgh station with his former co-anchor and paramour, played by “Everybody Loves Raymond” co-star Patricia Heaton. With its big-name cast and producers, it is one of the most expensive comedies on U.S. television.

Grammer, who gained fame playing a pompous shrink for 20 years on “Cheers” and its spinoff “Frasier,” said he was surprised by Fox’s cancellation, and felt the News Corp-owned network had not given the series enough time to establish itself.

“I really believe in the show. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have tried to fight for it,” he said.

As a kind of throwback to the traditional TV sitcom genre, “Back to You” was widely seen as an odd choice for Fox, a network better known for cartoon fare such as “The Simpsons,” edgy dramas like “24” and the hit talent show “American Idol.”

The season finale of the show, its very last episode unless another network comes to the rescue, aired on Wednesday.

It is rare — but not unprecedented — for a network to rescue a rival’s reject. Walt Disney Co’s ABC will next season take over the veteran hospital comedy “Scrubs” from NBC, a unit of General Electric Co.

Many have suggested CBS, looking to expand its comedy offerings next season, might be a more natural fit. But the most-watched network earlier on Wednesday announced plans to launch fresh sitcoms on the back of existing fare like “Two and a Half Men” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”

Grammer is not alone in his quest to keep “Back to You” alive. A spokesman for the show’s producer, 20th Century Fox Television, said the studio would “love to explore” options at other networks. Grammer said he has heard little from the studio.

20th Century Fox Television, a corporate sibling of the Fox network, makes shows for all the networks.

Editing by Dean Goodman

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