|Country of origin
|No. of seasons
|No. of episodes
|21 (list of episodes)
|June 5, 2005 –
December 28, 2014
The Comeback is an American comedy-drama television series produced by HBO that stars Lisa Kudrow as sitcom actress Valerie Cherish in modern-day Los Angeles. It was created by Kudrow and Michael Patrick King, a former executive producer of Sex and the City. Kudrow and King are also screenwriters and executive producers of the series, with King also serving as the director of some episodes. The series originally aired for a single season of 13 episodes from June 5 to September 4, 2005, before being cancelled. Nine years later, The Comeback was revived for a second season of eight episodes that aired from November 9 to December 28, 2014.
The Comeback is a satirical and comedic look inside the entertainment television industry. It was shot by a two-camera crew. The first season is presented as found footage shot for the fictional reality show within the series, also called The Comeback. The second season is presented as found footage shot by a camera crew originally commissioned by Valerie[b] to pitch a pilot to noted reality TV producer Andy Cohen, later repurposed as behind the scenes web content, and then into a full-scale documentary. Kudrow said in an interview that she and Michael Patrick King have discussed potentially working on a third season of The Comeback once the latter's work on the Sex and the City reboot was done.
Main article: List of The Comeback episodes
|June 5, 2005
|September 4, 2005
|November 9, 2014
|December 28, 2014
The series initially follows Valerie Cherish (Kudrow), a veteran B-list sitcom actress who found fame on a sitcom called I'm It!, which ran from 1989 to 1993. Thereafter, she failed to find substantial acting work and fell out of the spotlight for more than a decade. In 2005, Valerie is cast as Aunt Sassy on a new network sitcom called Room and Bored and as part of landing the role, agrees to chronicle her return to the television industry on a reality television series called The Comeback. However, she continuously struggles with the matter of being an aging, non-influential performer in an increasingly youthful Hollywood, while her every move on and off the set is being documented for the companion reality series.
In 2014, Valerie initially attempts to produce her own reality television pilot for producer Andy Cohen, having found that reality television has become significantly more popular since she made The Comeback nine years earlier. After she is cast as a fictionalized version of herself on an HBO series called Seeing Red, which chronicles the career of the sitcom writer and producer who tormented her nine years earlier on Room and Bored, the footage is repurposed as a documentary film[b] capturing her second career resurgence as it threatens to destroy her personal life.
Main article: List of The Comeback characters
Because the show is set in modern-day Hollywood, celebrities and media personalities such as Andy Cohen, Chelsea Handler, Jane Kaczmarek, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and RuPaul, among others, often play themselves in cameo appearances.
The Comeback was conceived in 2004 by Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King, following the final seasons of the sitcom Friends (in which Kudrow starred as Phoebe Buffay) and the HBO comedy Sex and the City, on which King was a director, writer, and executive producer. The central character, Valerie Cherish, was an extension of a recurring character that Kudrow invented while doing improvisational comedy with The Groundlings in Los Angeles. The character, which Kudrow named "your favourite actress on a talkshow", was an egotistical celebrity who lacked self-awareness. Kudrow has cited The Office as an influence on the show's found-footage documentary format, as well as being inspired by the rise of reality television, and the humiliation such shows inflicted upon their participants.
Despite a coveted time slot after the hit series Entourage, The Comeback debuted to low ratings. It was also met with a mixed critical response, yet it was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Kudrow. HBO confirmed on September 21, 2005, that the series had been canceled after being on the air only 13 weeks. Its initial lukewarm reception and short run notwithstanding, The Comeback has been retrospectively lauded.
The show placed #79 on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list. In 2009, the publication named The Comeback one of the 10 best shows of the decade, calling it "the most brilliantly brutal satire of reality TV ever captured on screen." In 2012, the magazine listed the show at #8 in the "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years," saying, "Both painfully uncomfortable and deadpan hilarious, The Comeback was spot-on in its inside-showbiz look at the making of a sitcom – while featuring one of the decade's biggest sitcom stars, no less. But it was so inside, it was too inaccessible to a mass audience, or even an audience that might have returned for a second season on HBO." Entertainment Weekly also voted Valerie Cherish on The Comeback as Lisa Kudrow's second best performance.
The New York Times gave the show a lukewarm review, dubbing it "interesting", but also complaining about a lack of originality in the concept and finding The Comeback ultimately less entertaining than its fellow HBO series Entourage.
In a commemorative article in 2012, UK newspaper The Guardian praised the show for its "bittersweet comedy" and Lisa Kudrow for her "ego-free acting." The newspaper questions whether, in an era where "you can't move for meta-sitcoms," this sitcom was just "too far ahead of its time."
The second season was met with critical acclaim. On the review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes the second season received an 84% approval rating giving it a "fresh" rating. It also scored a 71 out of 100 on Metacritic Robert Loyd of the Los Angeles Times praised the show saying "The current episodes have more weight and intensity; they come off a shade darker and yet more sympathetic to its cast of co-dependent lost souls." Joshua Alston of The A.V. Club also praised it, writing: "The Comeback is the same as it ever was, and more highly concentrated. It still out-metas anything else on television. The performances remain stellar all around." On the other hand, Kristi Turnquist gave the show a mixed review, writing: "While the first few episodes of the new Comeback make stingingly accurate points about the sexism and ageism Valerie has to contend with, The Comeback has its own problems. As in the first go-round, Valerie comes off as cartoonish, a caricature of a so-so celebrity." The last episode of Season 2, "Valerie Gets What She Really Wants", received almost universal praise, scoring 10/10 and A scores across the board.
According to HBO, the show drew an average of 1.4 million viewers across its channels and on demand – Kudrow said she has not "heard it officially," but that she and King have gotten the impression that the door is open for more. Soon, she hopes she and King will begin to "talk about what more would look like."
In a 2014 interview with E!, Kudrow also had this to say: "I would love to do more. In 2005, that was an ending, that was definitely an ending because I guess now we see that those episodes were a piece and these episodes were a piece and then if we do more then we will be doing that piece."
On July 21, 2020, the cast reunited on the live streamed web series Stars in the House, raising money for Actors Fund of America.
|Primetime Emmy Award
|Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
|Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
|Michael Patrick King for
"Valerie Does Another Classic Leno"
|Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series
Camille H. Patton
|Best Comedy Pilot Casting
Camille H. Patton
|Outstanding Female Lead – Comedy Series
|Best Actress in a Series, Musical or Comedy
|TV Comedy of the Year
|TV Performance of the Year – Actress
|Critics' Choice Television Awards
|Best Actress in a Comedy Series
|Primetime Emmy Award
|Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
"The Comeback – The Complete Only Season" was released on Region 1 DVD on August 1, 2006, with the Region 2 version released on September 18, 2006. The discs include all thirteen aired episodes as well as the following special features:
Season 2 was released on DVD on August 4, 2015 in a combo-pack along with Season 1 entitled "The Comeback: Limited Series". It contains all 21 episodes of the series.
As of December 2023[update], both full seasons of The Comeback are available on Max, Hulu and Amazon Prime.