HBO’s “The Comeback” will return for a six-episode second season (or “limited event series”) in November, and Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King were on hand at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour on Thursday afternoon to explain the show’s unlikely resurrection.
King admitted that he and Kudrow have often discussed what Valerie Cherish might’ve been doing over the years following the show’s cancellation, but they never dared mention the possibility of reviving the series until HBO contacted them to explore the idea. King was effusive in praising HBO as collaborative partners, and said that it was important that they were able to bring the show back to the network that gave it the greenlight in the first place. “It was allowed to be this original thing that really couldn’t be fit in a box, and that was only because it was on HBO.”
As far as HBO was concerned, “it just felt like the right time for us and for these guys,” according to EVP of programming Casey Bloys. “I think HBO is in a different place than it was nine years ago, and we had the room to bring it back. The future of the network doesn’t depend on this show… Everybody was just ready.”
That said, the cabler isn’t committing to more seasons of “The Comeback” at this point, and Bloys was hesitant to predict its future. “Could it happen? I guess, but with their schedules, I have no idea, and we didn’t build it as a series with locking everyone in,” he demurred. “It’s hard to say, but if it does fantastic and everybody loves it…”
Still, King advised that fans should never say never when it comes to Valerie Cherish. “Valerie is a powerful person — she may power down … [but] she doesn’t go away.”
A silver lining to the show’s truncated run: the short order allowed King and Kudrow to reassemble much of the show’s original cast despite conflicting schedules. “We got to tell a story and we got to bring back all the characters we thought were essential,” King said. “Over the 9 years, odd things have happened, like [the success of] Malin [Akerman] who was unknown and Kellan [Lutz] who was unknown … we’re bringing them back as meta versions of themselves as bigger stars.” Valerie’s nemesis, Paulie G. (Lance Barber) will also return, because Kudrow felt that the dynamic between Valerie and her former boss was “unfinished business.”
In terms of formatting, “the show is the same as it was nine years ago,” Kudrow promised. King noted that while the first season reflected what was going on in the television landscape in terms of the rising popularity of reality TV, this season they’ll explore how television has evolved in the intervening years. They’ve also devised a new way to get Valerie in front of the camera without returning to the reality TV well: she’s now the focus of a behind-the-scenes documentary after the actress is cast in an HBO drama. “[Before], we depicted a network sitcom that wasn’t doing well, [this time] we do our best to reflect Valerie’s experience if she were lucky enough to get cast on an HBO drama,” King explained.
Although they had “vague ideas” about where the show might’ve gone if it hadn’t been cancelled, Kudrow said they “burned through them pretty fast” in the first episode of the new season, which allows the revival to take off “from a whole other place.”
The duo noted that cameras are now ubiquitous in everyday life in a way they weren’t nine years ago, which has also changed the way Valerie and the other characters respond to constantly having lenses pointed at them in comparison to the first season. King teased that the show would also explore the toll that the quest for fame takes on a marriage, and examine the way women are treated in Hollywood, including “how women are asked to perform, and what ‘desirable’ is.”
Kudrow agreed that the show will explore the question of, “Who are you to yourself and what are you presenting to the world? I think that’s very much a part of this one.” Valerie certainly thinks she has evolved over the past nine years, King observed, but her desire for fame still seems potent. “Whether Valerie has evolved or not, we both wanted to take it to a different place as writers. We like the gap between the last season and this offering.”
The pair aren’t particularly concerned about having to introduce “The Comeback” to a new audience — Kudrow said that in her experience, “younger people already know about it and have already seen it. It’s fully appreciated … and they didn’t see it nine years ago.” Season one is currently available on HBO Go, and the network plans to reair the series prior to the revival’s premiere.
“We’re just really grateful that we get to pick it up again,” Kudrow admitted. “We just loved doing it so very much … we were both so thrilled, overjoyed, Michael’s already overworked, but he said ‘we have to, because we can’t not have this experience again.'”