Series / The Comeback

A 2005 HBO comedy from Lisa Kudrow and Sex and the City producer Michael Patrick King.

It stars Kudrow as has-been sitcom actress Valerie Cherish who is poised to make a comeback by starring in not one but two new shows. She is given the chance to star in her own reality show that would document her every day life including her new job as a lead in a new sitcom called "Room and Bored". However, things don't go as planned on either show. The writers of "Room and Bored" rewrite Valerie's character and change her from a sexy business woman and turn her into the frumpy aunt of one of the show's sexier young cast members. Meanwhile, Valerie complicates the jobs of her reality show crew by misunderstanding how documentary film-making works and constantly asking for cuts and retakes.

The show is presented in Mockumentary style, similar to the The Office, however what sets The Comeback apart is that the footage is shown in "raw" form. Meaning that the viewer is seeing the footage as it is being filmed, untouched and uncut, before it is edited and polished into a series. The actual reality series that the footage is being shot for isn't shown until the final episode when Valerie is shown watching the series premiere.

The Comeback only lasted one season that consisted of 13 episodes. It was cancelled due to low ratings and a lukewarm reception by critics. However the show did garner three Emmy nominations including one for Kudrow's performance. Retrospective reviews of the show have been much warmer, with EW calling it one of the best shows of the 2000's.

HBO ordered a second season of eight episodes nearly nine years after the show was canceled. The second season premiered November 9, 2014.

The show provides examples of:

  • Art Shift: The final sequence of season two drops the documentary format to show the real Valerie, giving us a rare glance at what Valerie is like when she's not performing for the camera.
  • Beauty Inversion: In the second season, Valerie becomes anxious after a New York Times interviewer calls her performance in Seeing Red "brave," thinking that it's a euphemism for "no make-up."
  • Breakup Breakout: In the intervening years since Room & Bored went off the air, Tom and Paulie G. dissolved their writing partnership. Paulie managed to transition his own personal problems into writing and directing his own HBO show, while Tom is stuck on a kids' show that he resents.
  • Butt-Monkey: Valerie, though most of the time she brings her suffering upon herself.
  • Catch-Phrase: Aunt Sassy's "I don't want to see that!"
  • Confession Cam: Valerie uses this a few times. They're pointedly the most artificial scenes on the show.
  • Cringe Comedy: So much of the humor is focused on watching a good intentioned older woman get humiliated and skewered for trying to put herself back out there in the public eye.
  • Determinator: No matter how much humiliation she is put through, Valerie is surprisingly resilient and determined to achieve her comeback at seemingly any cost. The second season begins showing her as a Deconstruction of this trope as she's shown to be willing sacrificing everything else in her life just for fame.
  • The Fundamentalist: Shayne objects to Valerie's reality show because of her religious views but has no problem starring in a sitcom about promiscuous singles in skimpy bathing suits.
  • Genre Savvy: Valerie frequently attempts to use her status as a sitcom veteran to alter the events of "Room and Bored" in Aunt Sassy's favor, completely unaware that Paulie G. and others do not receive her suggestions well.
  • It's All About Me: Even when Valerie is doing a good thing for someone else, it's usually because it also directly benefits her image, such as convincing a closeted gay couple to essentially out themselves to the world for the sake of being good television on her show.
  • Jerkass: Paulie G. Valerie at times as well.
  • Manipulative Editing: The first season ends with Valerie throwing a viewing party for the premiere of her reality show. She's heartbroken when she realizes that the show was heavily edited to humiliate her, her friends, and coworkers. What's worse is that the show made her cruel tormentor, producer Paulie G, look like the victim in their ongoing feud.
    • While we don't see any of the editing related to the HBO documentary Jane's making about Valerie in season 2, over the course of the season she starts taking more and more of an active role in directing Valerie and convincing her to do things she otherwise might not do.
  • Oscar Bait: Jane wins an Best Documentary Short Oscar for a film about Jewish lesbians in the Holocaust. Seeing Red itself becomes Emmy Bait thanks to Valerie's "brave" performance as an even worse version of herself.
  • Rage Breaking Point}: Valerie experiences one each season, the first in the form of a punch to the gut after Paulie G. mocks her back brace; the second occurs after Valerie is fed up with the mistreatment she experiences on the desert set of "Seeing Red," taking out her misplaced anger out on Ron and Shayna.
  • Roommate Com: Parodied with a Show Within a Show — a ghastly sitcom called "Room and Bored". It's about four young horny singles, but a washed-up older actress was brought into the show against the will of the screenwriters. They cast her as the disapproving "Aunt Sassy". (Typical lines: "Aunt Sassy, can we keep these puppies?" — "Where you see puppies, I see Korean barbecue.")
  • Stepford Smiler: Valerie, inspite of everything thrown against her she tries her best to smile things off to maintain some amount of dignity.
  • Uncanceled: After the show achieved cult status, HBO ordered eight new episodes set to air in late 2014...nine years after the show was cancelled!
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: A spectacular double-headed example: sick of Paulie G.'s bullying, Valerie finally loses it and punches him in the stomach just after he's had lunch. Unfortunately he sets her off too, but the resulting clip goes viral and revives her career overnight.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Valerie, the one-time star of a now obscure Murphy Brown-esque sitcom decades ago which she still has an entire wall of her house dedicated to with memorabilia.