The Comeback (TV series)
|Created by||Lisa Kudrow
Michael Patrick King
Robert Michael Morris
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||13 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Michael Patrick King
|Camera setup||Single camera|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original run||First series:
June 5, 2005 – September 4, 2005
beginning November 2014
The Comeback is an American television sitcom produced by HBO that stars actress Lisa Kudrow as sitcom actress Valerie Cherish in modern-day Los Angeles, California. It was created by Kudrow and Michael Patrick King, a former executive producer of Sex and the City. Kudrow and King are also screenwriters and executive producers of the series, with King also serving as the director of some episodes. The series premiered on HBO on June 5, 2005 and aired for a single, 13-episode season before being canceled. On May 5, 2014, HBO ordered a six-episode second season, which is scheduled to air on HBO in November 2014.
The show, a satirical, comedic look inside the entertainment television industry, is shot by a two-camera crew, in the style of reality television. Viewers of The Comeback are watching raw footage shot for the fictional reality show within The Comeback, also called The Comeback.
The series follows Valerie Cherish (Kudrow), a veteran sitcom actress who has been out of the spotlight for more than a decade, as she attempts to return to the industry that made her famous. Valerie lands a role on a new network sitcom, but struggles with the matter of being an aging, non-influential performer in an increasingly-youthful Hollywood, while her every move on and off the set is being documented for a companion reality show.
Cast and characters
- Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish, the central character of The Comeback, was the star of a 1989–1993 sitcom, I'm It!, in which she played a young superstar attorney. In the decade since, Valerie hasn't found acting work, and has fallen out of the limelight. She receives a call from her former network asking her to do a reality show called The Comeback, about an actress attempting to relaunch her flagging career by landing a starring role on the sitcom Room and Bored, a show featuring four sexy singles living in a condominium. Shortly after production of Room and Bored begins, Valerie's role on the show is reduced to an aging supporting character named Aunt Sassy. Valerie thinks she is (or should be) the real star of the show, and is very concerned about her image. She is extremely shallow and ego-driven, and takes great care to ensure that The Comeback doesn't portray her in an unflattering light, although she ultimately fails at this. Valerie usually doesn't bother to learn the names of crew members, nor does she take much interest in matters that do not directly involve her. She is woefully out of touch with current trends, as evidenced by her choices in fashion, decor, and music, as well as a general misunderstanding of reality television. Although she had become a housewife while unemployed, she engages in very little domestic activity. The family employs a housekeeper, and Valerie usually foregoes cooking, instead ordering take-out dinners from area restaurants. She and Mark even keep a binder of eatery menus in the kitchen. Valerie indicates that she had appeared in bit parts on shows such as Magnum, P.I., Knight Rider, and Remington Steele prior to her starring role on I'm It!
- Laura Silverman as Jane, the producer of Valerie Cherish's reality show, The Comeback. Jane seems very committed to seeing Valerie is comfortable on camera and is forced to endure the drama that Valerie creates. Jane is seldom seen on-camera, but her voice is often heard. When she is seen on camera, often she is mortified at what she perceives as Valerie's increasingly pathetic attempts to regain stardom. Jane attempts to limit her communication with Valerie, so as not to sacrifice the "reality" content of the show, but the star constantly seems to be talking to Jane. Valerie will ask her director for advice and "re-shoots" of a particular event, and Jane will usually avoid such communication and deny such requests by repeatedly telling Valerie she is forbidden to interact with her in any way. The relationship between the two comes to a head in the final episode.
- Lance Barber as Paulie G., one of the two co-creators, head writers, and executive producers of Room and Bored. His writing style and personality indicate he is a fan of sophomoric humor. He pushed the change in Valerie's sitcom character, as he is very unsympathetic to Valerie herself. Paulie G. disagreed with Valerie's casting from the beginning, and constantly seeks to reduce her role on the show. He is resentful of Valerie's efforts to control Room and Bored, despite her efforts to butter him up. He often antagonizes Valerie (usually in a passive-aggressive manner), but otherwise avoids contact with her. The editors of The Comeback have polished the finished reality show to portray Paulie G. in a positive light, while Valerie is shown to be the antagonist between the two.
- Robert Bagnell as Tom Peterman, the other of the two co-creators, head writers, and executive producers of Room and Bored. While he tends to agree with Paulie G that Valerie is too overbearing, he attempts to accommodate her requests and show ideas. Unlike Paulie G, Tom tries to communicate calmly with Valerie and treat her with appropriate respect, although his motives are sometimes passive-aggressive. Valerie tends to speak to Tom first when approaching the producers. Tom and Paulie G. met while studying at Harvard, and have worked as a team ever since, even winning an Emmy for a The Simpsons script.
- Damian Young as Mark Berman, Valerie's loving (and extremely patient) husband. They had lived a quiet lifestyle until camera crews invaded their privacy. Mark is a dedicated businessman with very little understanding of show business. He doesn't seem to be impressed by Valerie's celebrity and is annoyed by the reality show cameras but admits to using cocaine and watching pornography on camera. Valerie refers to Mark most often as "Marky Mark" and also by the nickname "Love Ball".
- Robert Michael Morris as Mickey Deane, Valerie Cherish's hairdresser and friend since the late 1980s. Between I'm It! and Room and Bored, he only worked for the actress part-time. Mickey agreed to work for Valerie full-time as she was cast on Room and Bored in order to receive health benefits from the studio. In his free time, he watches a lot of reality shows, and he is delighted to be appearing on one. Mickey is an older, effeminate man who believes that his obvious homosexuality is a well-kept secret. He came out of the closet in the finale.
- Malin Åkerman as Juna Millken, a beautiful young blonde musician, who (in her first-ever acting role) plays Cassie, the lead character and niece of Aunt Sassy on Room and Bored. Juna and Valerie become fast friends on and off the set. Juna sees Val as her mentor, and Val calls Juna her "baby girl", though Valerie is silently jealous of Juna's multi-faceted stardom.
- Kimberly Kevon Williams as Shayne Thomas. Shayne plays Dylan, Juna's roommate on Room and Bored. As a teenager, Shayne starred on a Disney Channel sitcom. She is a Christian who objects to the sexual content of Valerie's reality show, but overlooks the obvious sexual innuendo included within Room and Bored because she is playing a character and is not being "herself".
- Jason Olive as Jesse Wood. Jesse plays Stitch, one of Juna's male roommates on Room and Bored. He had been turned down for several acting jobs before landing his role on the show.
- Kellan Lutz as Chris MacNess. Chris portrays Mooner, another roommate on Room and Bored, who is a love interest to Juna's character. As an actor, he is curious why Valerie is on the show due to her age difference with the younger generation of the cast. Chris had a difficult childhood, and lived with an alcoholic father, which causes Chris to emotionally break down whenever he is put into a stressful situation with an authority figure.
- James Burrows as a heightened version of himself, the director of a few early Room and Bored episodes. His interactions with Valerie indicate the two have previously worked together, and he doesn't always see eye-to-eye with Tom and Paulie G. Though Jimmy likes Valerie and genuinely wants to help her succeed, he becomes increasingly annoyed with the presence of the reality crew, as well as Valerie's on-set antics (such as goading the studio audience into pressuring the producers for an additional take of a scene). His attempts to escape Jane and her cameras are usually futile. Jimmy must sternly remind Valerie quite often that she is not the star of Room and Bored and that her input to the producers is unwelcome. Jimmy was scheduled to be the full-time director of Room and Bored, but he is removed from that post a few episodes into the show's run without explanation, and is later seen working on another series in the same studio complex.
- John H. Mayer as Wagner Fisk, Jimmy's replacement as the Room and Bored director. He and Valerie have an amicable relationship, as he directed every episode of the first season of I'm It!. Wagner is a pushover, and was the victim of domestic violence by his wife. Room and Bored is his first directing job in several years.
- Vanessa Marano as Francesca Berman, Valerie's preteen stepdaughter. Francesca has generally tried to avoid Valerie, but becomes very eager to bond with her stepmother when in front of the reality show cameras. Francesca lives primarily with her birth mother, but on occasion stays with Mark and Valerie at their Beverly Hills home. She is often seen text-messaging her friends, including those in the same room. In one episode, an unsupervised Francesca throws a pool party, complete with wine and cigarettes. When Valerie discovers this, the footage shot by Jane's crew is edited to portray Valerie as an irresponsible parent.
- Nathan Lee Graham as Peter aka "Peter Darling", the wardrobe supervisor for "Room and Bored". He famously quipped the line "Do you have a juicy ass?" in response to Valerie's request for Juicy Couture even though the script called for a running suit.
- Bayne Gibby as Gigi Alexander, a naive playwright from New York City, is hired as the newest writer for Room and Bored. Valerie becomes fast friends with Gigi, with the ulterior motive of getting Aunt Sassy a greater role on the show, and to attempt to supersede some of the writing decisions of Tom and Paulie G. Sensing Valerie's intentions, the show's creators have forbidden any further fraternization between Valerie and Gigi, although Valerie later takes Gigi as her date to the People's Choice Awards. Gigi has a difficult time fitting in with the boys' club mentality of the writers' room and puts on a considerable amount of weight as a result.
- Lillian Hurst as Esperanza, Valerie and Mark's Hispanic housekeeper. She is very uncomfortable around the cameras, often simply staring into them with a suspicious glare on her face.
- Dan Bucatinsky as Billy Stanton, Valerie's publicist, hired to earn Valerie magazine covers (due mainly to her jealousy of Juna's photo appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone). Billy is a second-rate publicist who is just starting his own agency. He is very aggressive and tends to push and shove anybody who offends or disagrees with him. The first magazine cover he lands Valerie is for a yoga magazine, despite Val's ignorance of the yoga culture.
- Maulik Pancholy and Amir Talai as Kaveen Kahan and Greg Narayan, a comedy duo brought in by the network to spice up "Room and Bored" as Juna's foreign pen pals. Tom and Paulie G. find them hilarious, but the original cast (except for Valerie) resents their involvement. They are antagonistic with the original cast, and one remark even causes Chris to start a fight with them. They are disaffectionately known as the "beetee beetee boys" by the original cast, mocking their comedy duo routine, which plays heavily on faux-Indian accents.
- Tom Virtue as Eddie, the stage manager of Room and Bored.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||DVD and Blu-ray Disc release date|
|Season premiere||Season finale||Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|1||13||June 5, 2005||September 4, 2005||August 1, 2006||September 18, 2006||September 10, 2008|
Season 1 (2005)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original airdate|
|1||1||"The Comeback (Pilot)"||Michael Patrick King||Lisa Kudrow & Michael Patrick King||June 5, 2005|
|Valerie Cherish starts a new chapter in her TV career as she agrees to allow cameras to trail her around the clock for a reality show called "The Comeback", a prerequisite for being cast in the pilot of the new series "Room and Bored."|
|2||2||"Valerie Triumphs at the Upfronts"||Michael Patrick King||Lisa Kudrow & Michael Patrick King||June 12, 2005|
|Valerie, Mickey and the cast of "Room and Bored" travel to New York for a traditional network event where new shows are unveiled to the media.|
|3||3||"Valerie Bonds with the Cast"||Michael Lehmann||Michael Patrick King||June 19, 2005|
|After a table read for "the first official episode", Valerie invites her co-stars to a "bonding lunch", but Juna doesn't show up. The two make up later with a one-on-one lunch, where Valerie learns why Juna is such a paparazzi favorite. At home, Valerie is touched when Francesca appears to reach out to her at long last.|
|4||4||"Valerie Stands Up for Aunt Sassy"||Michael Lehmann||John Riggi||June 26, 2005|
|Concerned that Paulie G. has written an unflattering line that will turn audiences against her character, Valerie enlists a new writer, Gigi, to help pitch a less-offensive one. Meanwhile, Valerie rethinks her impulsive decision to adopt a puppy.|
|5||5||"Valerie Demands Dignity"||Greg Mottola||Linda Wallem||July 10, 2005|
|Valerie worries that her comeback storyline isn't "enough", as the network tries to spice up her reality show by cross-breeding it with another one, and by pulling a highway prank that nearly sabotages Valerie's lunch with a TV Guide editor; at home, Mark is increasingly frustrated by the restraints the ubiquitous cameras have imposed on their sex life.|
|6||6||"Valerie Saves the Show"||Greg Mottola||Michael Schur||July 17, 2005|
|With the cast in a funk after a lackluster premiere, Valerie tries to boost morale with a late-night cookie delivery that gives new meaning to her trademark line, "I don't want to see that!"; Mickey accuses Valerie of sharing details about his private life with Juna; and Valerie tries to persuade Shayne to see her reality show in a different "light."|
|7||7||"Valerie Gets a Special Episode"||Michael Lehmann||John Riggi||July 24, 2005|
|Excited about a "Room and Bored" episode dedicated to her character, Valerie pulls some strings to get a "name" actor to play Aunt Sassy's romantic interest; and Mark's behavior at the Viper Room brings to light intimacy issues that are ultimately too hot for the camera.|
|8||8||"Valerie Relaxes in Palm Springs"||Michael Lehmann||Linda Wallem and Michael Patrick King||July 31, 2005|
|Valerie and Mark head to the desert for a long weekend at a Palm Springs resort, with strings attached; and while Mark draws the line with Jane's crew on the golf course, Valerie finds a new mentor in an old acquaintance.|
|9||9||"Valerie Hangs With the Cool Kids"||J. Clark Mathis||Michael Schur||August 7, 2005|
|At the insistence of the network, "Room and Bored" gets a makeover and adds two new cast members, Greg and Kaveen, spurring talk of a coup by the "original five." Meanwhile, Francesca's new friend Kalla shakes up the status quo at home.|
|10||10||"Valerie Gets a Magazine Cover"||David Steinberg||Amy B. Harris||August 15, 2005|
|With Juna getting all the hype and most of the magazine covers, Valerie enlists a new publicist, Billy Stanton, to land a cover of her own. Billy obliges by scoring a shoot for Be Yoga magazine, forcing Valerie to remodel her fitness room and take a yoga crash course.|
|11||11||"Valerie Stands Out on the Red Carpet"||Michael Patrick King||Michael Patrick King||August 21, 2005|
|When Room and Bored gets nominated for a People's Choice Award, Valerie gets a new dress and a new look.|
|12||12||"Valerie Shines Under Stress"||David Steinberg||Heather Morgan||August 28, 2005|
|Jane pulls rank on Tom and Paulie G to get Valerie more lines on Room and Bored. A stalker threat forces extra security on the set, exposing Valerie's old back problems as she's prepping for a big pratfall scene.|
|13||13||"Valerie Does Another Classic Leno"||Michael Patrick King||Michael Patrick King||September 4, 2005|
|After hosting a memorable coming-out party for the premiere of The Comeback, Valerie makes an even more memorable guest appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.|
Season 2 (2014)
On April 28, 2014, HBO announced that The Comeback will return for a six-episode second season in November 2014, with the possibility of further seasons.
Despite a coveted time slot after the hit series Entourage, The Comeback debuted to low ratings and a mixed critical response; despite this, it was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Kudrow. HBO confirmed on September 21, 2005 that the series was officially canceled after only being on the air for thirteen weeks. Notwithstanding its initial lukewarm reception and short run, The Comeback has been retrospectively lauded.
The show placed #79 on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list. In 2009, the publication named The Comeback one of the ten best shows of the decade, calling it "the most brilliantly brutal satire of reality TV ever captured on screen." In 2012, the magazine listed the show at #8 in the "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years," saying, "Both painfully uncomfortable and deadpan hilarious, The Comeback was spot-on in its inside-showbiz look at the making of a sitcom – while featuring one of the decade's biggest sitcom stars, no less. But it was so inside, it was too inaccessible to a mass audience, or even an audience that might have returned for a second season on HBO." Entertainment Weekly also voted Valerie Cherish on The Comeback as Lisa Kudrow's second best performance.
The New York Times gave the show a lukewarm review, dubbing it "interesting", but also complaining about a lack of originality in the concept and finding The Comeback ultimately less entertaining than its fellow HBO series Entourage.
In a commemorative article in 2012, UK newspaper The Guardian praised the show for its "bittersweet comedy", and Lisa Kudrow for her "ego-free acting". The newspaper questions whether, in an era where "you can't move for meta-sitcoms", this sitcom was just "too far ahead of its time".
Home media releases
"The Comeback – The Complete Only Season" was released on Region 1 DVD on August 1, 2006, with the Region 2 version released on September 18, 2006. The discs include all thirteen aired episodes as well as the following special features:
- Audio commentary on Episode 1 by Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King
- Audio commentary on Episode 2 by Valerie Cherish
- Audio commentary on Episode 3 by Michael Patrick King
- Audio commentary on Episode 9 by Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King
- Audio commentary on Episode 12 by Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King
- Audio commentary on Episode 13 by Michael Patrick King
- "Valerie: After the Laughter" (8:47) is like an epilogue for Ms. Cherish as she tries to explain what she'll be doing now that Room and Bored and The Comeback have been put on hiatus.
- "Valerie Backstage at Dancing with the Stars" (6:12) is the sitcom/reality star backstage at Dancing with the Stars
- Both discs also offer an episode index
Video on demand
- Bibel, Sara (July 10, 2014). "'The Comeback' Returns as a Limited Comedy Series This November on HBO". Zap2it. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
- "The Comeback – The Complete Only Season". Amazon.com. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
- "The Comeback: The Complete ONLY Season [DVD] ". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
- "Comeback, The". JB Hi-Fi. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
- Dos Santos, Kristin (April 28, 2014). "The Comeback With Lisa Kudrow Is Coming Back...". E! Online. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
- "10 Best TV Shows of the Decade". Entertainment Weekly. December 17, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
- "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years." Entertainment Weekly. August 3, 2012, p. 39.
- "The EW Office Poll: Lisa Kudrow Dishes It Out," Entertainment Weekly 1026 (December 19, 2008): 12.
- "Gazing Resolutely Into a Mirror (Wink)". Television. The New York Times. June 3, 2005. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
- Hogan, Michael (May 10, 2012). "Your next box set: The Comeback". The Guardian. Retrieved July 18, 2014.