The Comeback returns this Sunday night and with it, the return of Valerie Cherish, Lisa Kudrow's hilarious, fame-seeking character. What's she been up to during the last decade? More importantly, what is she up to these days? We'll find out. In the meantime, for those who haven't watched the original series recently, we've comprised a list of things well worth remembering about the original series.
Spoiler alert: This list is meant to be a refresher for the first season. It obviously contains major spoilers about the original Comeback series! If you're still planning on getting around to watching it, we advise you skip the list and head on over to HBO Go where the full original series is available streaming.
Valerie Cherish sought a comeback.
Lisa Kudrow's character is a friendly but often extremely insecure and self-unaware woman, who hit it relatively big as the star of a successful sitcom called I'm It in the 90s.. When The Comeback picks up, her fame has fizzled, but reality TV is on the rise, offering Valerie an opportunity to return to the spotlight. With the reality show is the opportunity to star in a new sitcom, which would ideally contribute to her re-rise to fame. But the industry isn't exactly the same as it was a decade prior, and Valerie isn't entirely prepared for what's in store as a reality TV star or a sitcom star.
There were two shows within this show.
There are two different series built into HBO's The Comeback: The Comeback, which is Valerie's reality show. And Room & Bored, the network TV multi-camera comedy in which Valerie is cast to star, while having her life and work taped for The Comeback.
The reality show is at the heart of the HBO comedy, as Valerie isn't always at work on the set of Room & Bored, but she is always being filmed for the reality show. The Comeback is presented as raw footage for the reality series that eventually premieres at the end of the series. While Valerie spends too much of her energy trying to control how she's being presented for The Comeback, her ego takes a bit of a hit on the set of Room & Bored, as her starring role is eventually sidelined from roommate to that of Aunt Sassy, a borderline-senior landlord of a group of hot young twenty-somethings. Aunt Sassy spends most of the time complaining, wearing a hideous track suit and saying the catch phrase "I don't need to see that!" Valerie tries to take this all in stride, but it's evident from the start that she's not happy with her character.
Valerie Cherish had friends and rivals. Well, one rival.
Beyond Ms. Cherish, here are the key players in this story:
Juna (Malin Ackerman) - an up-and-coming actor/singer who stars alongside Valerie in Room & Bored. Valerie calls Juna "Baby Girl" and Juna treats Valerie like kind of a big sister. She's always very sweet and appreciative of Valerie's advice, even when it's not really needed.
Paulie G (Lance Barber) - Co-creator of Room & Bored, along with Tom (Robert Bagnell). Tom's the nice guy, while Paulie G. has a pretty big ego and virtually no appreciation for Valerie's presence on his show. Paulie G's barely-masked dislike for Valerie is evident from the start and there's plenty of friction between the two of them whenever they're on screen together. (I have a theory that Paulie G has a sort of repressed attraction toward Valerie, but that's never openly addressed in the series.) Moving on...
Mickey (Robert Michael Morris) - Valerie's friend and hairdresser. Mickey is with Valerie quite often, whether he's on set to touch up her hair or out and about with her when she's not at work. He's one of Valerie's biggest sources of support.
Jane (Laura Silverman) - The Comeback producer. Occasionally heard but rarely seen, Jane is usually somewhere just off camera making sure the crew was getting all of the necessary footage for the reality show. Valerie addresses Jane constantly when she's trying to give her instructions for how to shoot the reality show. Though Jane tries to stay focused on production (and patiently respond to Valerie's requests), as the season goes on it becomes clear that she's getting more emotionally involved in Valerie's life and work than she wants to be.
Mark (Damian Young) - Valerie's husband. Mark's not in the business, and he married Valerie after her I'm It fame began to die down. so his perspective is that of an outsider who loves Valerie and only wants the best for her. He seems to be aware of Valerie's occasional bouts of insecurity, but it's clear he loves her for who she is.
The cupcake incident.
As mentioned previously, Valerie's relationship with Paulie G isn't good, though she's constantly trying to win him over. The tension between them comes to a head the night they're trying to film a dream sequence for Room & Bored which has Valerie dressed in a cupcake suit and forced to fall over. Valerie revealed to us earlier that she has a metal rod in her back due to having scoliosis as a kid, so the constant falling isn't good for her, but she insists on doing more takes to get it right. Meanwhile, Paulie G.'s running the episode, and because the sitcom's production has run late, he's binging on pizza and booze while they're filming. At one point, Paulie G makes a crack about the rod in Valerie's back, which pushes over an edge we didn't even know she had.
Her response is to punch Paulie G right in the stomach, causing him to double over and vomit all over the set - and all of it is caught on camera. It's hilarious and disgusting and wonderful all at once. And it's this epic moment that turns Valerie's reality show into an instant success.
Where the series left off
The final episode of the original series has Valerie throwing a premiere party for The Comeback reality show. Things take a turn for the dramatic when Valerie sees that the reality show is presenting her all wrong, as Paulie G is made out to be this nice guy and Valerie is presented as this erratic actress who punched her showrunner in the stomach on set. There are other moments in the reality show that are edited out of context, which causes Valerie to freak out and threaten to quit the reality show. But then she goes on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and he has fun with her about the cupcake ordeal, making light of it as if it's all just whacky reality hijinx. Jay Leno and the audience's reaction allows Valerie to see that she's getting the fame and attention she's been seeking the whole time. All she has to do is swallow her pride and laugh off the incident. And the reality show is picked up for a second season. The series ends with Valerie outside signing autographs.
As for Room & Bored, throughout the series, the sitcom is struggling, both creatively and with ratings. It's evident that Juna is the breakout star, while the other stars -- Valerie included -- are slowing pushed to the sides. At one point, a gimmicky comedy duo is brought in a after a retooling, which causes tension among the other stars.
Did Room & Bored get picked up for another season? We never find out. Given the direction it was going, I'd say probably not, but then again, Valerie's instant fame after the premiere of The Comeback may have helped Room & Bored's viewership. We'll likely find out the fate of the comedy when The Comeback returns.
The Comeback returns for an 8-episode limited series run on Sunday, November 9 at 10:00 p.m.. Watch the trailer here.
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