Dreaming of a comeback for 'The Comeback'

The care and feeding of an Emmy contender
All-time primetime
Ricky Gervais | Ty Burrell | Sarah Silverman | Phil Rosenthal | Ben Silverman | Taylor Holland | Gregory Itzin

8:00:
“Cheers”
“Cheers” is not a show you could sell in the room. I mean, look at the pitch: Employees and regulars in a Boston bar … but the logline isn’t what makes it great, making it a perfect example of how unimportant high concept is. “Cheers” is brilliant because of the careful and heartfelt construction of the characters, the writers and actors who gave them breadth.

8:30:
“Taxi”
OK, I can say the same thing here — that this is a show whose success is due to its brilliantly drawn characters and the perfectly cast actors who bring them to life — though there’s a little more of a logline pitch. Taxi drivers work together, each of them with dreams and aspirations beyond hacking. All except for our hero, Alex, happy driving his cab; he’s the voice of reason among this sea of characters.

9:00:
“The Comeback”
America got screwed by the abrupt cancellation of this brilliant show, starring Lisa Kudrow. The great Alec Sulkin says that this show was the closest thing to the British version of “The Office,” but it came out before America was ready for that kind of verity in comedy, that kind of discomfort, and he is exactly right.

9:30:
“The Larry Sanders Show”
Do I even need to say anything here? This show stands alone for a million reasons. The story, the characters, the brilliant writing and acting — think about how, other than in Larry’s monologue, the laughs never really came from jokes. They came from small, real moments. It was super-sophisticated stuff about show business, but the laughs were still about moments, you know?

10:00:
“Lost”
Only picking three hours of TV was brutal. There are so many shows I wish I could put in this slot — “Damages,” “Dexter,” “Mad Men,” good old-fashioned “Law and Order,” “The Sopranos”!! — but when it comes down to it, it’s gotta be “Lost.” As high concept as you can get — it’s matched by its writing, the acting and just the wonder. “Desmond?” “Penny! You kept your number Penny!”

If the night had an extra half hour: “Louie,” Louie CK’s current show on FX. Nothing like it on TV before. It’s beautiful.

Sarah Silverman has won one Emmy and has been nominated for three others, including lead comedy actress in 2009 for “The Sarah Silverman Program.”

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more