TV Review: “The Comeback” – She’s Back!

Written by Brian Wilcox November 13, 2014

the comeback

Television was a different medium in the year 2005. Original programming was still slowly growing, with HBO arguably leading the pack since the late ‘90s with unique programming. Then along comes a little show called “The Comeback”. Created by “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow and writer/director Michael Patrick King, of “Sex and the City” fame, “The Comeback” didn’t become a hit. At least not right away. Chronicling the rise of a former TV sitcom actress Valerie Cherish (played by Kudrow) back to stardom, “The Comeback” proved itself to be much further ahead of its time, as reality shows had yet to catch on at that point. Obviously television has changed a lot since then, and reality shows have not only hit the big time but they’ve pretty much saturated the market. Which meant it was the perfect time to bring back one of the shows that started it all for a second 8-episode limited run.

Within the first 10 minutes “The Comeback” pokes fun at itself about how it’s been almost 10 years since they were last on the air. The first scene has enough jokes to fill a network sitcom alone, with each new character of her camera crew getting a line or two to help hammer home how long it has been. Opening the episode with the colour bars and tone like the first season did certainly feel a bit dated; one of the characters ends up telling Valerie that no one even uses the tone noise anymore and Valerie remarks on how fast technology is changing. That is one of the common themes so far this season. Valerie’s husband Marky Mark (Damian Young) makes the same entrance in the episode as he did in the pilot episode all those years ago, one of the few homages “The Comeback” has to its first season throughout the episode.

the comeback

Unlike the first season, however, Valerie is not on a sitcom and is instead trying to put together a pitch for “the Bravo guy” in the hopes of working together on something. That’s the plan until her former boss Paulie G (Lance Barber) writes a pilot for HBO entitled ‘Seeing Red’. After getting a copy of it online – Valerie looks into the camera and remarks “Oh right, privacy is gone”, another jab at the technological changes – Valerie comes to the conclusion that the show, and character Mallory Church, is her. She tries to shut it down but winds up auditioning for the role, and eventually landing the part. That will set up her arc for this season, as well as a probable reconciliation with a now sober show runner, Paulie G.

“Guys. Gotta have the camera on me!”

“The Comeback’s” always been known for their subtle critique of Hollywood life and this season’s premiere is no exception. Chock full of different commentaries on certain aspects of showbiz that it’s almost a challenge trying to remember them all, but there are a couple big ideas that “The Comeback” presents. The first comes from Valerie recording an interview when she alludes to the fact that audiences seemed to be skeptical about reality shows ten years ago and that when HBO cut the show due to lack of viewers, it was because audiences weren’t accustomed to what they are now. In 2014 there’s a reality show for pretty much anything: duck hunters, pawn stars, truck drivers, whatever Honey Boo Boo is. You name it there’s a reality show for it, and people are okay with that!

the comeback

“The Comeback” is more relevant than ever simply by that alone, but in the premiere episode they also tackle another major problem: the treatment of older actresses in Hollywood. While auditioning for “Seeing Red”, Valerie has to give a cold read of a monologue that is almost gut wrenching as the audience realizes that Valerie basically is reading her feelings on the page. The speech talks about being unfunny, undesirable, and how the men in the television business can’t see her that way. It’s a problem many women in show business have faced for years; it’s hard to be placed in either the love interest category or the mother figure one. Clearly this strikes a chord in Valerie and it helps sell her performance and land her the role.

Overall, the premiere episode for “The Comeback”, called ‘Valerie Makes a Pilot’, was surprisingly solid for having an almost 10-year absence (any length of time like that is always a bit worrisome) as the writers (King and Kudrow) were able to keep the same tone and humor that made the first season such a cult hit. For being so ahead of its time during its premiere run, it’s certainly going to be a treat watching “The Comeback” over these next 8 weeks to see what the show is capable of doing, given how social media and the entertainment business has changed over almost a decade. If this first episode is any indication, “The Comeback” is going to have a very strong season and hopefully will tackle more social issues like the ones they’ve only scratched the surface of. Valerie Cherish is back in the spotlight once again.

My Rating: 7/10

 

 

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About Brian Wilcox

Brian can usually be found watching movies, talking about his vinyl collection or eating Ring a Wing chicken wings. Sometimes all three at once. Follow him on twitter (@mcchub) for his ramblings and comedic genius.

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