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Times Union

23 July 2005

Nice finds a home on Hallmark


In its march to ratings domination, CBS made a decision to change its Sunday-night movie formula from comfortable to edgy. Tales of widows finding fulfillment and yuppies returning to small-town values made way for campier fare like "Spring Break Shark Attack" and "Locusts!" starring "Xena" herself, Lucy Lawless, as the sexiest Undersecretary of Agriculture ever depicted on TV.

Fans of the old format should not despair, for it has found a safe, comfortable niche on the Hallmark Channel. Perhaps too much so, if "Back to You and Me" (9 p.m., Hallmark) is any indication.

"Back" stars Lisa Hartman Black as Dr. Sydney Ludwick, a beautiful and dedicated doctor who has never found the right man.

Friends encourage the good doctor to take a break and return to her bucolic hometown of Bloomfield for her high school reunion. She balks because of a falling-out with her spirited mother (Rue McClanahan), but relents under a barrage of "you-go-girl" pressure from a friendly nurse.

Bloomfield seems to be the kind of small American town that only exists in Hallmark movies. The sun shines every day on modest, non-franchise markets passed from father to son and unencumbered by competition from chain stores and mega malls. In "Back to You and Me," everybody seems to be exactly Sydney's age -- roughly 40 -- and they're all singularly obsessed with the high school reunion.

Not to give too much away here, but in quick succession Sydney discovers that the town has lost its local doctor, and that her old boyfriend is available and the father of a troubled boy with an undiagnosed illness. Or could it be he just needs a mother? We also learn that Sydney and her mother have unresolved "issues." Are there any other kind?