“Friends” and “Roseanne” are without a doubt my favorite sitcoms of all time.
On “Friends” Phoebe and Chandler were always my favorite and by default Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry were my favorite cast members. The day that “Friends” went off the air in May of 2004 I was incredibly sad, but it’s been interesting to see the six cast members navigate their careers over the last ten years.
Lisa Kudrow was the first cast member to win and Emmy and she was also the first cast member to score and Emmy nomination post “Friends”. In 2005 “The Comeback” aired on HBO.
Lisa Kudrow was nominated for Best Actress and a Comedy, an award she lost to another 90’s sitcom vet Julia Louis Dryfuss. I loved the first season of “The Comeback”; I thought it was funny but also dark in its awkwardness. I was sad that the show only got one season. Yet, as much as I loved the first season of “The Comeback” I felt it didn’t fully push Lisa Kudrow to use her dramatic abilities that often go so underused. She is a great comedienne but she is also a top notch dramatic actress as was witnessed that same year in the underappreciated film “Happy Endings”.
When I found out that “The Comeback” was getting an unexpected second season on HBO after nine years I was very excited.
In anticipation of its return I re-watched the first season over the month of October, including all of the commentary.
The first episode of season two was a little off but it fit where Valerie Cherish was. As desperate as she was to stay relevant in 2005 she was an even further away from that as the show picked up in 2014.
Relegated to student films and failed infomercials Valerie was forced to basically try to make her own reality show, with very low production value.
Then a gift fell into her lap. Her old nemeses Paulie G (Lancer Barber) wrote an HBO show about their time together. In a failed attempt to stop Paulie and HBO from making the show she ended up auditioning for the role of a modified version of herself. It is in that on the fly audition that the show began to really find its way. Valerie socks the HBO producers, Paulie G and the audience with her dramatic depth. It was a great Meta moment because in that moment the audience is reminded of just what a great actress Lisa Kudrow is.
The second season of “The Comeback” was both darker and funnier than the first.
It makes sense. In season 1 Valerie was filming the sitcom “Room and Bored” about a bunch of twenty somethings living together at the beach so despite the awkward moments the show was pretty light. In season 2 Valerie was filming the dark dramedy “Seeing Red” about a heroin addicted sitcom writer. There were scenes that were so funny that I couldn’t help but think about them the next day and there were moments that were so dark it made you long for the awkwardness of season 1. Throughout it all Lisa Kudrow, at the age of 51, did some of her best work ever.
What was interesting was that as Valerie begins to finally be taken seriously as an actress and her professional life is nearing a new high her personal life was falling apart. It was a story line that we’ve seen before but since we already have a relationship with Valerie we understand it more. We understand that she just wants to work and be relevant and be a star but we also know that she loves her husband, Mark (Damian Young), very much.
The last episode of the season (and possibly the show but I hope not) brought Valerie to the zenith of her career, an Emmy nomination. Yet, she literally finds herself surrounded by shit and disaster. She is faced with the ultimate choice of staying at the Emmys and having her professional dreams come true or rushing to the side of her beloved hairstylist Mickey (Robert Michael Morris) after he is taken to the hospital.
What will Valerie do?
She of course makes the right decision and that is when “The Comeback” really changes. In the ending moments of the last episode everything is shot differently and Valerie is different. For the first time in all these seasons we see Valerie Cherish not being filmed. And the irony is that in the moments when she is not being filmed for reality show or a documentary she sees the reality of her for the first time. We see why Mark loves her and we see why Mickey has always been her biggest fan. And we see why Lisa Kudrow deserves a second Emmy to add to her mantle.
The rating for the second season of “The Comeback” have been awful so my hopes are high for a third season. If it happens that would be amazing but as I told a friend the fact that there was even a second season at all was an unexpected present. If we never see Valerie Cherish again I’m okay knowing at the end she really did get everything she wanted, a successful TV show, an Emmy, her husband and her best friend.
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