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Lisa Kudrow returns in comedy that HBO killed after one season, nine years ago

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Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish  in The Comeback.

JOHN P JOHNSON PHOTO Enlarge Image

Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish in The Comeback.

HOLLYWOOD -- The Comeback is coming back.

What makes this interesting, and not just slightly ironic, is that The Comeback was a made-for-cable comedy -- the post-Friends return to TV for Lisa Kudrow -- about a faded sitcom actress trying to use reality TV to re-energize her fading celebrity. Despite being a pretty funny show, it was cancelled by HBO after just one season. The Comeback wasn't much of a comeback vehicle for Kudrow.

But now, nine years later, at the invitation of the very network that cut her loose, Kudrow is making another comeback in The Comeback.

Uh, yes -- it's a bit confusing. Let's let the star of the show explain it:

"We're just really grateful that we get to pick it up again and keep people up to date on what's happening and just to do it again," Kudrow said last week during HBO's portion of the U.S. networks' semi-annual press tour in Los Angeles. "There was so much (left). It didn't get picked up nine years ago, and we just loved doing it so very much. That that was the bad part -- it wasn't like, 'Oh, that was so hard and awful, but, shoot, my feelings are hurt.' That wasn't it. We just loved doing it so much that I think we were so thrilled, overjoyed. We said... 'We can't not have this experience again.'"

The original version of The Comeback, created by Kudrow and writer/producer Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City, 2 Broke Girls), aired for a single 13-episode season on HBO in 2005. It starred Kudrow as Valerie Cherish, a minimally talented Hollywood actress who had become a big star in a sitcom called I'm It!, which aired in the late '80s and early '90s. The sexually suggestive show-within-the-show comedy had three successful seasons before suffering a ratings nosedive, and was cancelled after 97 episodes -- three short of the century mark that can turn a sitcom into a syndication goldmine -- leaving Valerie out of work and very much out of demand.

When The Comeback opened, Valerie Cherish was trying to re-start her career by vying for a part in a new sitcom called Room and Bored; at the same time, she had agreed to become the focus of a reality-TV show called The Comeback that followed her efforts to revive her celebrity.

It was a clever, though often cringe-inducing, comedy that HBO opted not to pick up for a second season.

"Lisa and I would meet over the years, socially -- because I'm no fool, and it's fun to be around Lisa -- and every now and then it would drift to an idea of 'I wonder what Valerie would be doing now?' King explains. "But it was too much of (an emotional risk) to even say we would come back."

And then, somewhere along the way, a new generation of HBO executives became interested in the idea of finding a way to give The Comeback a second life.

The second-generation version of The Comeback, which will première on HBO Canada in November, resumes its story as if Valerie Cherish's life had continued in real time. In the new six-episode set, Valerie has once again decided to aggressively pursue her rightful place in the Hollywood spotlight. And this time, when she (sort of) achieves her goal, her ego and general ineptitude create a new and much more intense collection of problems.

"The DNA of the show is the same," said King. "We're picking up the show nine years -- 10 years, by the time you see it -- later. What we liked about Valerie is her in front of a camera ... so we tried to reflect that, like we did the last time. What was happening the last time in television seemed to be the birth of reality television, and an actress's need to be in front of the camera.

"And this time, we found a different way to get her in front of the camera, because we wanted to evolve the character and also where we are in TV. So what we have now is (Valerie) in front of a behind-the-scenes crew rather than a reality-TV crew. Reality TV is not where we land. It is where Valerie starts out trying to land, and then she goes someplace else when she gets cast in a show on HBO."

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 17, 2014 C6

History

Updated on Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 7:03 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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