I had seen about half of an episode of LISA KUDROW‘s and MICHAEL PATRICK KING‘s HBO series from 2005 called THE COMEBACK a while back, but I never really gave it a chance. I remember hearing one of the Olsen twins saying that it was one of their favourite series, and that stuck out to me for some reason. I kept hearing about the show despite its cancellation after one season.
The Comeback poster: source.
Well, after a 9 year hiatus, the show returns for its second season next Sunday November 9th on HBO, and I am very excited to watch it! Yesterday I downloaded season 1 of THE COMEBACK, and I watched all 13 episodes over the last 2 days.
Since I consider myself to be reality TV addict, the show’s premise is perfect in my mind: KUDROW plays VALERIE CHERISH, a washed-up sitcom actress who agrees to film a reality show about her life while working on a new sitcom.
The cast of the fictional sitcom ROOM AND BORED on THE COMEBACK: source.
The new sitcom has 4 young, “hot” stars living together and Valerie Cherish is playing the supposedly unattractive, old aunt named AUNT SASSY. The sitcom is called ROOM AND BORED and it’s super cheesy and insulting to women, and lots of groups of people for that matter. For example, Cherish stands up to the writers when she is expected to say a line about a batch of puppies potentially turning into Korean BBQ. Cherish previously starred in a popular courtroom sitcom called I’M IN IT. When Valerie is complaining to the white, male writers she cites an example from the last season of I’M IN IT when there was a Rodney King joke too soon after the riot. She thinks it led the show to be cancelled.
Lisa Kudrow aka Valerie Cherish as Aunt Sassy: source.
Being racist towards Korean people and making fun of Rodney King’s death is not funny in any way, shape, or form. What makes the show smart and funny is the way it identifies how so many popular sitcoms on supposedly “politically correct” stations regularly air material that I find to be totally unfunny. There are shows I’ve seen where it seems like every joke is based on stereotypes of others. The humour on THE COMEBACK is self-reflective. Valerie is learning how to be a better human being, not just hate on others. This is the type of humour I relate to and feel good watching.
Therefore, I did not find the show to be racist or sexist. Instead it was refreshing and hilarious to see the challenges Valerie Cherish faces while trying to ensure the sitcom isn’t offensive to viewers. Yet, Valerie is not perfect. She assumes her Asian make-up artist is Korean, and apologizes to her for the offensive joke. The make-up artist points out she is Japanese. Valerie tries to cover her own ass by saying that she wouldn’t want to offend the make-up artists’ Korean friends then. The make-up artist asks why Valerie assumes she has Korean friends. There’s lots of awkward social situations like this one on THE COMEBACK that are funny and realistic. I think we’ve all either observed these scenarios or been a part of them (on both ends) where you, or someone else, is trying to be sensitive but end up creating the opposite effect.
Valerie Cherish taking a bath (wearing a swimsuit of course, since she doesn’t do nudity): source.
The reality TV film crew is led by LAURA SILVERMAN (SARAH SILVERMAN‘S sister) as the character JANE. You often see that the lines between Valerie’s own personal life and her connection to the crew are blurred. For example, one of her fellow co-stars shows up incredibly late for lunch. While Valerie is waiting, she unsuccessfully tries to coerce Jane to join her at the table, so she doesn’t feel like a loser being filmed eating alone.
VALERIE CHERISH is an inspiring character because she always tries to put on a brave face. Valerie tries to pretend she is A-OK at all times, even though the film crew captures all of the degrading and embarrassing things that happen to Valerie during her pursuit of a successful acting career. LISA KUDROW puts her dramatic acting chops on display also. There are painful and tender moments where Valerie has tears in her eyes, even though she is smiling. I could feel her pain, and I connected to how much it hurts to be rejected. The series has so many funny situations that happens. It was comforting me and making me laugh like crazy. Valerie’s step-daughter is like 10-12 years old and yet she refuses to eat carbs, smokes, and says “Bananas” (one of celebrity stylist RACHEL ZOE‘s trademark lines).
Valerie on the set of her sitcom Room and Bored: source.
It is an outstanding and intelligent show. Even though the first season aired in 2005, it is especially relevant today. I think it accurately represents why audience’s have become increasingly attracted to seeing people play themselves on reality television. “Being yourself” on reality TV creates a kind of pressure about authenticity that leads to a lot of fakeness. But, at the same time, since these reality shows are capturing people at home, or in semi-natural situations (or with their families like on KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS), the viewer gets exposed to honest and vulnerable moments in reality stars lives. These moments are almost always quite unflattering and reveal the person’s ego. But for me, these moments usually lead me to love my favourite reality stars even more, because I realize they are human. Even though they look perfect in still-life images or on Instagram, nobody is perfect and confident at all times. Reality TV makes that abundantly clear, and THE COMEBACK brings that message home and then some!