After almost 10 years, “The Comeback” made its triumphant return to HBO on Sunday. This time around, the network behind the Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King-created series is getting in on its own joke by giving the show’s main character a coveted role on an HBO pilot.
The Nov. 9 premiere marked the first appearance of Valerie Cherish (Kudrow) since the short-lived first season of “The Comeback” in 2005. The first episode of season two opened by filling the audience in on what Cherish has been up to since the cameras stopped rolling. We find her recording a pilot/sizzle reel of herself to pitch to Bravo’s Andy Cohen. After some very brief Twitter conversation, she believes she can get him interested in another reality show about her.
In the test footage, Valerie includes a scene from an independent horror film that saw the “actress” running screaming out of a suburban house covered in blood. After that she had a one-off guest role on an unnamed procedural crime drama, a role that she says she's "shocked" didn’t turn into a guest run. After that, she created a hair care product exclusively for redheads. The product ended up being a great excuse for her to star in an infomercial for “Cherish Your Hair” (Get it?).
After all of the typical positive spin we’ve come to expect from Valerie, her true colors shined through in a bit of test footage that played on the reel against her will. Apparently, between her “pilot” for Cohen and her stint as an infomercial sales person, Valerie tried reality TV again (for Bravo no less) only to realize she doesn’t have it in her anymore.
However, with cameras following her every move once again, Valerie learns that her former nemesis, Paulie G. (Lance Barber), has just returned from rehab for heroine, which apparently he was using throughout the entire first season. Now he’s written a ‘dramedy’ for HBO all about his days working with Valerie on the sitcom “Room and Bored.”
Valerie discusses the pilot with her husband Mark (Damian Young) who informs her that they can probably sue for defamation. In the meantime, Valerie crashes a lunch that Cohen is having with fellow guest star RuPaul. After he accidentally plants the idea in her head to add something dramatic to the pilot, Valerie sees the HBO lawsuit as a great way to do that.
She bursts into the HBO office to find studio executives auditioning women for the role that’s based on her. Rather than scream or “knock over a few conference tables,” she’s lured by the prospect of fame into reading for the part of herself. In a rare moment of honesty, Valerie reads the lines about an angry, aging actress clinging to her self-esteem with the gusto of a professional actress.
Surprisingly, the audition goes well and Valerie finds herself in her kitchen explaining to Mark that the lawsuit is off and that she’s now the star of an HBO series.
“No f---ing way,” an unsupportive Mark says.
“To be continued” she replies to camera before the credits role, putting a nice little bow on the series' return.
After nearly a decade away, this episode of “The Comeback” had a lot of catching up to do. Most of the episode was spent explaining what’s been going on with everyone since the cameras stopped rolling. It did a fantastic job of winking at fans of its original run while still creating something that was watchable for newcomers. Kudrow told HBO in a press release interview recently that the most exciting part of “The Comeback’s” revival was discovering Valerie again. After watching the character’s headstrong return to the small-screen, we can’t help but be excited too.
“The Comeback” airs Sunday nights at 10/9c on HBO.