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|
|Camera setup||Single camera|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original run||June 5, 2005– September 4, 2005|
The Comeback is a television series 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 were 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 season.
The show, a comedy, was shot by a two-camera crew, in the style of reality television. Viewers of The Comeback are actually watching raw footage shot for the fictional reality show within The Comeback, also called The Comeback.
The series' episode titles (excluding the pilot) begin with the main character's first name "Valerie..." followed the theme of the episode as the main character would have named them, e.g. "Valerie Triumphs at the Upfronts".
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.
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."
Valerie Cherish is a D-grade actress who had it all. From 1989 until 1992, Valerie starred on a sitcom known as I'm It! The show was a hit during its initial run, but fell just three episodes shy of reaching syndication status. Valerie claimed that the show was canceled over a Rodney King joke, but in a later episode it is made clear that the quality of the show had declined before that point and that a chimp had been brought onto the show to star as another lawyer at the firm where the show is set. Since then, the fame and fortune Valerie gained from her success and triumphs has depleted. She has become unemployed, married, and does not get the roles for which she was once famous due to her age and personality. Valerie vows that she will make a comeback, which is the ultimate goal in her career as an actress.
The Comeback is shot in the style of a reality show. The show-within-a-show follows Valerie through her home life and her career resurgence. It offers behind-the-scenes footage of the other fictional show-within-a-show, Room and Bored, a network sitcom on which Valerie plays a minor role.
Each episode begins with color bars, over which are superimposed the words "The Comeback: Raw Footage", indicating that viewers to the actual HBO series The Comeback are watching unedited video for the fictional reality show also called The Comeback.
Kudrow stated in 2010, speaking of where the show may have gone in season two if it were not canceled: "All we really knew for season two was that Paulie G. would end up getting fired, Gigi would end up in charge and the sitcom turns into a huge mess – that and Valerie’s marriage would be on the rocks."
- Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow), the central character of The Comeback, was the star of a sexually charged 1989 sitcom, I'm It!, in which she played a young superstar attorney. Valerie has fallen out of the limelight but 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. The role is originally written as a 40-ish architect who acts as an older, wiser, yet still sexy roommate. Valerie wins the role over former sitcom stars Marilu Henner and Kim Fields (who also had reality show cameras following them in case either had received the role), neither of whom seem particularly excited to shoot either the sitcom or the reality show. However, after an early rehearsal, Valerie learns the script has been changed to reduce her character's role to that of a 40-ish landlord named Aunt Sassy, a character much like the Mrs. Roper character from Three's Company. Aunt Sassy is a woman who dresses only in pastel jogging suits, lives upstairs, and usually only appears in one scene per episode.
- Despite the changed role, Valerie performs well, much to the delight of the audience and the network, and the show is greenlit for a fall season. However, still in denial that her day in the sun has passed, Valerie is obsessed with the direction of Room and Bored. She attempts to use her standing as a veteran sitcom star to persuade the young producers to take her suggestions for the show, despite numerous warnings to "back off." Valerie constantly reminds the crew of her success on I'm It! as a reason to listen to her. Valerie believes it is her duty to explain to her young co-stars what starring on a sitcom entails.
- Initially, even with her reduced role, Valerie thinks she is (or should be) the real star of the show, and is very concerned about her image. It is only after a meeting with a cancer-stricken family friend that Valerie realizes she must learn humility and to make the best of every situation she is presented. In the end, Valerie agrees to return for a second season of her reality show, despite being thoroughly embarrassed (due to some creative editing) during its highly rated premiere. This serves as proof that she is willing to completely sacrifice her dignity to return to the spotlight.
- Entertainment Weekly voted Valerie Cherish on The Comeback as Lisa Kudrow's second best performance.
- Jane (Laura Silverman) is the director 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.
- Mark Berman (Damian Young) is 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".
- Mickey Deane (Robert Michael Morris) has been 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. Mickey is an effeminate man in his 60s who believes that his obvious homosexuality is a well-kept secret. He came out of the closet in the finale.
- Paulie G. (Lance Barber) is the pudgy co-creator and executive producer of Room and Bored. He is the person who pushed the change in Valerie's 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. Paulie G is resentful of Valerie's efforts to control Room and Bored and attempts to avoid any communication with Valerie, despite her endeavors to butter him up. In one episode, Valerie and her camera crew walk in on Paulie receiving fellatio. Though viewers watching the "raw footage" know Paulie G's true intentions toward Valerie, the editors of The Comeback have polished the finished "reality show" by using the same footage to portray Paulie G as a sympathetic producer and all-around nice guy while Valerie is shown to be the antagonist between the two.
- Tom Peterman (Robert Bagnell) is the co-creator and executive producer 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. Valerie tends to speak to Tom first when approaching the producers.
- Juna Millken (Malin Åkerman) is a beautiful young blonde model and 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 stardom.
- Shayne Thomas (Kimberly Kevon Williams) plays Dylan, Juna's sexy roommate on Room and Bored. Shayne 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".
- Jesse Wood (Jason Olive) plays Stitch, the sexy African-American male roommate on Room and Bored. He had been turned down for several acting jobs before landing his current role on the show.
- Chris MacNess (Kellan Lutz) plays Mooner, the sexy surfer-type 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.
- Jimmy Burrows (James Burrows) plays himself and is the director of many, but not all, of the Room and Bored episodes. His scenes with Valerie indicate the two have previously worked together. Though Jimmy likes Valerie and genuinely wants to help her succeed, he becomes increasingly annoyed with her antics and her reality crew. 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. Burrows' real career as a television director enhances the show's believability, as he has won several Emmy awards for his work as producer and director of such series as Friends, Cheers, Frasier, and Will & Grace.
- Francesca Berman (Vanessa Marano) is Valerie's 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.
- Peter aka "Peter Darling" (Nathan Lee Graham) is 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.
- Gigi (Bayne Gibby), 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. 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.
- Esperanza (Lillian Hurst) is 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.
- Billy Stanton (Dan Bucatinsky) is 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.
- Kaveen Kahan and Greg Narayan (Maulik Pancholy and Amir Talai) are a comedy duo brought in by the network to spice up "Room and Bored" as Juna's foreign pen pals.
Season 1: 2005
(taken from official website)
|1||"The Comeback" (Pilot)||Lisa Kudrow & Michael Patrick King||Michael Patrick King||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."||June 5, 2005 (HBO)|
|2||"Valerie Triumphs at the Upfronts"||Lisa Kudrow & Michael Patrick King||Michael Patrick King||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.||June 12, 2005 (HBO)|
|3||"Valerie Bonds with the Cast"||Michael Patrick King||Michael Lehmann||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.||June 19, 2005 (HBO)|
|4||"Valerie Stands Up for Aunt Sassy"||John Riggi||Michael Lehmann||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.||June 26, 2005 (HBO)|
|5||"Valerie Demands Dignity"||Linda Wallem||Greg Mottola||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.||July 10, 2005 (HBO)|
|6||"Valerie Saves the Show"||Michael Schur||Greg Mottola||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."||July 17, 2005 (HBO)|
|7||"Valerie Gets a Special Episode"||John Riggi||Michael Lehmann||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.||July 24, 2005 (HBO)|
|8||"Valerie Relaxes in Palm Springs"||Linda Wallem and Michael Patrick King||Michael Lehmann||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.||July 31, 2005 (HBO)|
|9||"Valerie Hangs With the Cool Kids"||Michael Schur||J. Clark Mathis||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.||August 7, 2005 (HBO)|
|10||"Valerie Gets a Magazine Cover"||Amy B. Harris||David Steinberg||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.||August 15, 2005 (HBO)|
|11||"Valerie Stands Out on the Red Carpet"||Michael Patrick King||Michael Patrick King||When Room and Bored gets nominated for a People's Choice Award, Valerie gets a new dress and a new look.||August 21, 2005 (HBO)|
|12||"Valerie Shines Under Stress"||Heather Morgan||David Steinberg||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.||August 28, 2005 (HBO)|
|13||"Valerie Does Another Classic Leno"||Michael Patrick King||Michael Patrick King||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.||September 4, 2005 (HBO)|
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.
Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Starring the superb Lisa Kudrow as a washed-up sitcom actress, this comedy may have lasted only 13 episodes, but it's 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."
Reruns now air on The Sundance channel.
In a commemorative article in 2012, popular 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', the sitcom was just 'too far ahead of its time'.
On July 26, 2013 in an interview on the Bravo TV show Watch What Happens: Live, Andy Cohen asked Kudrow if she would bring "The Comeback" back to TV. It is something Kudrow has thought about, and talked about with series co-creator Michael Patrick King. "Every time we get together for lunch, we’re talking about, ‘OK, so what would happen next?’ So we are talking," Kudrow admitted. Her character, Valerie Cherish, was an actress who had recently starred in a top-rated sitcom. After its cancellation, though, she'd had a harder time maintaining her celebrity. Kudrow admitted that she never really stops thinking about where Valerie would be now. Ironically, Kudrow got an Emmy nod for her portrayal, along with two other nominations for the show.“Taking classes at the Actor’s Studio. Just because," she speculated about Valerie. "We really want her to be on a Bravo show.” Wouldn't she be perfect for the "Real Housewives" franchise! Kudrow said she wasn't comfortable asking people for money in a Kickstarter campaign to bring back the show, but said that someone else certainly could. For now, it can join the list of shows that critics consider to have been ahead of their time.
"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:
- Audiocomentary on Episode 1 by Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King
- Audiocomentary on Episode 2 by Valerie Cherish
- Audiocomentary on Episode 3 by Michael Patrick King
- Audiocomentary on Episode 9 by Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King
- Audiocomentary on Episode 12 by Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King
- Audiocomentary 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
- "Best of the Decade: Television," Entertainment Weekly (December 17, 2009)
- "My encounters with Lisa Kudrow..." 5-18-2010 http://sunsetandcelebs.com/index/2010/05/my-encounters-with-lisa-kudrow-clark-gregg-and-jennifer-grey-at-the-geffen-playhouse/
- "The EW Office Poll: Lisa Kudrow Dishes It Out," Entertainment Weekly 1026 (December 19, 2008): 12.
- Geier, Thom; Jensen, Jeff; Jordan, Tina; Lyons, Margaret; Markovitz, Adam; Nashawaty, Chris; Pastorek, Whitney; Rice, Lynette; Rottenberg, Josh; Schwartz, Missy; Slezak, Michael; Snierson, Dan; Stack, Tim; Stroup, Kate; Tucker, Ken; Vary, Adam B.; Vozick-Levinson, Simon; Ward, Kate (December 11, 2009), "THE 100 Greatest MOVIES, TV SHOWS, ALBUMS, BOOKS, CHARACTERS, SCENES, EPISODES, SONGS, DRESSES, MUSIC VIDEOS, AND TRENDS THAT ENTERTAINED US OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS". Entertainment Weekly. (1079/1080):74-84
- "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years." Entertainment Weekly. August 3, 2012, p. 39.