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It only took nine years, but The Comeback’s Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) finally gets it — reality TV that is.
For fans of HBO’s The Comeback, the show’s second season — returning Sunday — will look a lot different than the one that might have happened in 2006, according to co-creator Michael Patrick King.
“Only one emotional element is the same, which is the thought of, ‘What would success do to Valerie’s personal life?’ ” King told The Hollywood Reporter during Wednesday’s Hollywood premiere event. “We always had the impulse that she gets something she wanted.”
King, who also exec produces CBS’ raunchy comedy 2 Broke Girls, is enthusiastic about The Comeback’s new direction, with the series now having the opportunity to skewer not just reality TV and sitcoms but also the small screen’s affinity for dramedies, limited series and prestige networks.
Heralded as a show ahead of its time, The Comeback, co-created by the former Sex and the City scribe and Friends star Lisa Kudrow, originally aired in 2005 before it was unceremoniously canceled after 13 episodes. It joined the annals of such one-and-done greats as Judd Apatow‘s Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life and Joss Whedon‘s Firefly.
However, unlike its unlucky peers, later cult success — thanks in part to social media and YouTube — allowed HBO to resurrect the show nine years later. As executive producer/co-star Dan Bucatinsky (Scandal) sees it, catchphrases — such as Valerie’s highly GIF-able signature “I don’t want to see that” — helped keep the show alive.
“Where we are now and what viewers have become accustomed to — their appetite for reality humiliation and what it means to have cameras on you — we have thicker skins now, and I think Valerie has a thicker skin now,” says Bucatinsky, who also doubles as Kudrow’s producing partner. “Now is a time to explore a kind of optimism and a need for relevance Valerie had in 2005, where with Twitter and cameras and the opportunities to be on television are even greater. So 2014 feels like the right time to visit for someone who didn’t feel in control of her destiny.”
For King, Kudrow and Bucatinsky, The Comeback‘s return was a relatively painless process. After a few months of talks about a potential revival, the ball was in HBO’s court. Recalls Bucatinsky: “[HBO] broke up with us, so if you want to date us again, ask us out. You might get a yes.” Luckily, they did, and HBO revived the series for a six-episode order that grew to eight to accommodate an hourlong season finale.
Kudrow said jumping back into Valerie’s signature pastel tracksuit was like putting on an old coat. The Friends alum doesn’t think the series was ahead of its time but believes today’s reality-TV-heavy climate makes the show more timely than ever.
“I don’t think it was that far ahead of its time. For younger people, there’s no learning curve with reality shows. That’s where people go to humiliate themselves in trade for a little publicity for themselves,” she says.
Adds King: “Valerie, nine years ago, was someone who was punished for being obsessed with her brand. Everybody’s a little bit more Valerie on Facebook or Instagram [nowadays]. They want you to see the version of [them] that they want you to see. Valerie is like, I get it, everybody is playing themselves.”
Says Kudrow with a laugh: “Nine years later and she finally gets it.”
The Comeback returns Sunday, Nov. 9 at 10 p.m. on HBO. Check out a few clips from the return, below.
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