Sunday nights are about to get very interesting again on HBO. The pay cabler is about to launch the third and final season of its drama “The Newsroom,” followed by the comedy comeback of “The Comeback,” which ran for one season nearly ten years ago.
For those not familiar, “The Comeback” skewers reality television and in this new iteration, its evolution over the past decade, through the eyes of egocentric actress Valerie Cherish as portrayed by Lisa Kudrow, who desperately wants back into the game.
Created and executive produced by Kudrow and Michael Patrick King — HBO royalty going back to his time with the seminal comedy “Sex and the City” — “The Comeback” picks up nine years after it left off — and a SPOILER ALERT is in order here for readers who don’t want to be tipped off about plot elements for the revival of the series.
In the new version of “The Comeback,” Kudrow’s character hires a student film crew to shoot her every move. She even has a camera set up in her bedroom, much to her husband’s displeasure. Her game plan is to then edit the footage into a presentable package to get her on Bravo, after she apparently had an earlier falling out with the cable network’s Andy Cohen.
The first two episodes were screened Wednesday night at Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre, with HBO programming president Michael Lombardo, King and Kudrow intro-ing them and setting the stage for the comedy to come, which includes a Chateau Marmont encounter with Cohen, who’s lunching with RuPaul. Lisa Vanderpump also has a cameo in another funny lunch scene at Villa Blanca relating to the Bravo thread of the story.
Fans who were drawn to the comedy in 2005 — which had a cult following that’s grown over the years — and plenty of new ones are sure to be won over by Kudrow’s character, who is equal parts pragmatist, snake, unaware of her own limitations and so vain she always has her hairdresser in tow. In fact, they have a line of unsold hair products for redheads stored in a warehouse, in case anything Valerie ever does on TV takes off and spurs sales. Because her earlier promotional campaign for it completely bombed.
Valerie’s trademark red tresses are being constantly fussed with as she navigates her renewed road to fame, which this time involves a huge step up in the showbiz food chain: working on an HBO show with a longtime foil, writer and show creator Paulie G., who’s written a program that portrays a character just like Valerie Cherish — try Mallory Church — in a very unflattering light.
After briefly considering a lawsuit, Valerie realizes being part of an HBO show — no matter how negative the characterization — is a game-changer in seeking the spotlight. So there you have it, an HBO show within an HBO show. It’s inside baseball stuff that audiences will greatly enjoy — and it left the premiere audience, many of whom work at the company, in roar-out-loud laughter.
Along with Paulie G., played by Lance Barber, many of the original characters have returned. “We were still writing the episodes when people started discovering that there was going to be more of ‘The Comeback,’” Kudrow said in an interview. “Initially we reached out to some people, and then we were hearing from others. We knew we would be able to have them all in every episode, but we were hearing people say, ‘I want to be part of it.’ So we moved our production schedules around, and they moved their movable schedules around to make it work.”
As for whether Valerie Cherish or any other characters have changed much in nine years, Kudrow says they will be tested in this new season. “Everyone thinks their priorities are straight, although I’m not sure Valerie ever says her priorities have changed, so that’s pretty honest. At first, she seemed a little crankier to me. Michael and I talked about her character and how she might have changed. But as we kept going, we did find that person who’s so optimistic, who spins everything into, ‘That’s OK, because …’ And that’s Valerie.”
(“The Comeback” debuts on HBO Sunday, Nov. 9, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.)