It’s been nine years since viewers have seen Valerie Cherish, the sitcom star who allowed cameras to capture her every move to disastrous results, but she’s back and as awkward as ever.
Star Lisa Kudrow and executive producer Michael Patrick King were on hand at the 2014 summer TCA press tour to talk about “The Comeback’s” six-episode resurrection, which is something they’ve always secretly hoped would happen.
“Lisa and I would meet over the years socially, because obviously it’s fun to be around Lisa, and I would always wonder what Valerie would be doing right now,” King says. “But we never said it aloud--”
“It was too much of an emotional risk,” Kudrow adds.
“And then we got a call from HBO,” King continues. “They asked us to come back and talk about ‘The Comeback.’ So we started talking about it because it was no longer a risk.”
During the panel the pair revealed that Valerie has done some growing up over the past near-decade, much the way reality television has changed and evolved since the series ended its inaugural run. In a clip shown to reporters Valerie harped on a variety of television shows and pop culture references that have surfaced since 2005, reflecting the somewhat new tone of the show.
“The DNA is the same,” King assures. “We’re picking up the show 10 years, by the time you see it later. The DNA that we liked was her in front of the camera unedited. We tried to reflect what was happening last time. This time we found a different way to get her in front of the camera because we wanted to evolve the character and (show) where we are in TV.”
The season, which according to King has a clear beginning, middle and end, could potentially go for a second run should the stars align. But over the course of these six episodes viewers will see Valerie work to reignite her career, and eventually, through a series of plot turns, land a job on an HBO show.
“What we did nine years ago was so tame compared to what’s going on now,” Kudrow shares. “There are lots of shows referencing a documentary crew. That’s what made me nervous. Then the stories and situations took over and it was just bigger than it was before. Things happen over nine years to human beings to make them a little different and that took over.”
Filming on the project wrapped six weeks ago, and King is confident that even fans who haven’t seen the original show will be satisfied by what he says is a “crack cocaine” opening, but there are treats for returning fans as well.
“You get to see a little bit of where she’s been these last nine years,” he hints, before adding that the time lapse is also the perfect opportunity for people to understand the social commentary the show provides a little more clearly now.
“When we did the first season we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be so great if people went into therapy with reality cameras?’ And there was no way. Now it’s like a go to--that and a bikini wax! At one point Valerie says, ‘I forgot everything’s a camera.’ The other thing is, nine years ago audiences had never seen a female character doing this to herself in front of a camera. And since then there’s been ‘The Real Housewives.’”
A few more highlights from the press tour panel:
*** HBO revealed there are tentative plans to air the first season in its entirety before the new season debuts, but in the meantime people can catch up on HBO GO.
*** Despite it seeming otherwise, Kudrow does zero improvising on the series. “I just look like I don’t know what I’m doing!” she jokes.
*** Some of the characters you know and love will also be making a “comeback.” King reveals that Lance Barber is back as Paulie G., and is a large part of the season’s narrative. As for Malin Akerman and Kellan Lutz, they’ll also be back but in a new way. “We got to bring back all these characters that we thought were essential,” King teases. “But over the nine years odd things have happened like Malin who was unknown and Kellan who was unknown, they’ve done movies and stuff. So we’re bringing them back as meta versions of themselves.”
*** King and Kudrow appear to have a very close working relationship; King--who kept encouraging Kudrow to talk and even offered her a dollar for her thoughts--reveals that the very first time he saw Kudrow back in the Valerie hair and makeup, he completely froze up. “I got really shy, I was like, ‘I haven’t seen you in nine years,’” King laughs. “Valerie is a force.”
“The Comeback” makes a comeback this November on HBO.