To prime yourself for season two of The Comeback, premiering on Nov. 9 at 10 pm on HBO, here’s what you need to know before spending a weekend with Aunt Sassy.
What’s the premise? A fading TV star (Lisa Kudrow) attempts to reboot her career with her own reality show.
What’s it like? One of the ultimate cringe comedies of the last decade, The Comeback shows what happens when a narcissist confronts irrelevance. Valerie Cherish, once a TV star on the fictitious 1990s sitcom “I’m It,” nabs a minor role as “Aunt Sassy” on the fake series Room and Bored — so long as she also lets cameras film her for a reality show called The Comeback at the same time. For Cherish, the humiliation of trying to fit in with a much younger, more popular cast is hard to watch at times, but also makes for some delicious satire. There’s nothing else really like The Comeback, which practically prophesied what was to come on reality TV when it first aired in 2005. It’s also a fine example of meta-television with one of the first-ever TV shows within a TV show within a TV show!
Where can I see it? The complete first season is available on DVD, HBO Go, HBO On Demand, Amazon Prime, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu. HBO2 will also air a marathon of the entire season on Nov. 8 from 10:30 am to 6 pm.
How long will it take? Season one of The Comeback is only 13 half-hour episodes, so you have plenty of time to catch up before season two. You may, however, need to take a few breaks to de-cringe from your binge.
What do the critics think? The Comeback was not overwhelmingly popular with critics in 2005, and at 46 percent on the Tomatometer, season one was rotten. Don’t let that deter you, however. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine
wrote, “The Comeback quickly reveals itself to be not just a satire of the fickle, bottom-line-oriented sitcom world, but a depressing examination of sexism and ageism in Hollywood as a whole.” And Brian Lowry of Variety
lauded Lisa Kudrow (a 1990s sitcom star herself) in his fresh 2005 review, saying that “Kudrow is gifted and believable enough to sell Valerie as more than just her alter ego.” Years later, The Comeback has earned cult status and in 2012, the Guardian published an article in which Michael Hogan called the series “too far ahead of its time,” and Entertainment Weekly, in spite of having given it a rotten review in 2005, named The Comeback one of the 10 best TV shows of the decade in 2009.
Why should I watch this? Lisa Kudrow, who co-created the series, delivers a comedic tour de force with a performance so subtle that you forget she and Valerie Cherish are different people (Kudrow was nominated for an Emmy in 2006 for the role). Yes, there’s something sad about The Comeback, but the way Valerie Cherish acts self-conscious to the point of actually making herself look worse never fails to be funny. Also, Robert Michael Morris as Mickey the hairdresser, Malin Akerman as the new clueless “It” girl, and Damian Young as Valerie’s disinterested husband are hilarious. And don’t let the fact that The Comeback is 10 years old fool you; Valerie’s look was dated then too.
What’s my next step? Tina Fey’s 30 Rock is the next logical step, as are Ricky Gervais’s Extras and The Office. You should also check out HBO’s Hello Ladies, Family Tree, Veep, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. For movies, look no further than the filmography of Christopher Guest, especially This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, and For Your Consideration. Also, for fans of Kudrow since her Friends days, check out the Showtime series, Web Therapy, coming back for season four tonight at 11 pm.
Isn’t it time The Comeback made a comeback? Tell us why!