Before the rise of the Kardashians or any housewife, there was a star named Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow), the leading lady of HBO’s The Comeback. The fortysomething D-list actress who found success decades earlier just wanted to get cast on a sitcom with four characters half her age and in the process, she agreed to document her return to the screen on a reality show (also called The Comeback).
Despite being put in a tracksuit and a cupcake costume, dealing with a writer who hates her, and constantly asking and being denied requests to turn off the cameras, Val kept the smile on her face and the bounce in her curls throughout the show’s first season, which aired in 2005. But by the end of its initial run, there was good news and bad news: Val had punched her writer in the gut, leading both of them to throw up on national television, and had her reality show renewed for a second season.
Nearly a decade later, fans are finally going to get a glimpse into what that second season consisted of and what Hollywood’s “It” girl has been up to after all this time now that HBO’s revived The Comeback, with new episodes set to debut in November.
With Kudrow and co-creator Michael Patrick King already deep into the long-awaited return, here are a few things we can look forward to in The Comeback’s comeback.
Val’s inability to understand that the camera never stops rolling only got funnier with each episode. From saying, “I won’t say, ‘I thought I’d never work again’” (failing to recognize that her words could be twisted with editing), to admitting to trying cocaine, to believing saying “cut” would make any subsequent words unusable, Val’s wonderful naivety was always on full display. Though reality television has changed drastically over the last decade, we wouldn’t be surprised if Val — particularly since she and Marky Mark (Damian Young) are producing now — stayed the same. And while King said at The Comeback’s panel at the 2014 Television Critics Association press tour, “Reality TV is not where we land. It is where Valerie starts trying to land, and then she goes someplace else when she gets cast in a show on HBO,” hopefully there’s still film rolling above her bed and on her bathroom vanity.
2. The original cast
Over the last nine years, many stars of The Comeback have found success: Kellan Lutz (Chris MacNess) played Emmett Cullen in the Twilight franchise; Vanessa Marano (Franchesca Berman) stars in the ABC Family hit Switched at Birth; and Malin Akerman (Babygirl aka Juna Millken) has acted beside Sandra Bullock, Ben Stiller, and Vince Vaughn (to name a few) and starred on her own series, Trophy Wife. Unfortunately, Marano’s rep confirmed to BuzzFeed that Val’s outrageous stepdaughter won’t be in the series due to scheduling conflicts, but, during the TCA panel, King said Lutz and Akerman will indeed be back, as well as Lance Barber (Paulie G), who has some “unfinished business” to settle, Kudrow added.
Val’s flamboyant, overly obedient hairdresser/biggest fan, Mickey (Robert Michael Morris), is perhaps the most under-appreciated character from Season 1. In the finale, Mickey is finally given his own storyline, when he brings his boyfriend (who he has kept hidden for years) to Val’s screening party. Now that he’s back, we’ll hopefully get a look at Mickey that doesn’t involve him holding Val’s handbag.
4. Val in a more serious role
Everyone loved Aunt Sassy, Val’s character on the sitcom Room and Bored, but it would be great to see her act in a different setting. Luckily, when the series returns, Val will be working on an HBO dramedy, so the chances of seeing another side to her are very high. “How we sort of depicted a sitcom, a network sitcom that wasn’t doing well, we’ll do our very best to reflect Valerie’s experience if she got lucky enough to be cast on an HBO dramedy, which, through plot twists (which I won’t get into here now), hopefully you’ll believe,” King said at TCA.
5. Val, uncensored
Arguably the best moment of The Comeback is when Val punches Paulie G in a giant cupcake suit. (Her rendition of “I Will Survive” is a close second.) In the moments where Val forgets about the cameras and asks on instinct, her true star quality shines brightest. And according to King, viewers will see a lot more of that. “Nine years ago, she was hyper-aware of the camera, and in this series, she gets a little bit more used to the camera and, just like you see those reality shows, people actually start to behave sort of like themselves in moments,” he said.
6. Some big guest stars
Sean Hayes teased on Twitter that he would be a part of The Comeback’s return, hopefully playing himself. And Val will be working on an HBO show, so perhaps some cast members will wander onto the wrong set. Kit Harington on The Comeback? That would be phenomenal.
7. Another Jay Leno appearance?
Val’s career highlight (next to her People’s Choice Award win) is her visit to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. And Season 1 ended with her second visit to that big comfy chair beside his desk. Though Leno left The Tonight Show in February, the writers should really work something out for a one-night return because nothing, I mean nothing, is better than Val and Leno.