Friday, January 22, 2010

Television Review: The Comeback

Generally, comebacks are not viewed favorably. (See, for instance, Strong Bad’s return to checking emails and Homestar’s frustration at the end of it.)

Really, however, a comeback results in an attempt to regain those fifteen minutes of fame, usually in a very self-serving way. And often, the person pursuing a comeback overestimates the amount of control s/he has over the situation.

Lisa Kudrow (Friends) stars in the HBO comedy series The Comeback, which aired for one series; Kudrow portrays the B-list sitcom actor Valerie Cherish, who peaked in the early ’90s with her role on the sitcom I’m It.

I’d be lying if I didn’t reveal my reason for buying this series from the Staples $5 bin: I wanted to see Lisa Kudrow dressed up as a giant cupcake.

In the end, I got what I paid for, if only because Kudrow’s character--while dressed as a pink-frosted cupcake--gut punches a television writer, an act that results in a bout of double-vomiting. But moments like this demonstrate the height of the show’s slapstick comedic material; these instances, which are far and few between, highlight The Comeback’s focus on the personal drama of Valerie Cherish.

In most programs, a lack of chemistry would be viewed as a fault; in The Comeback, Cherish--who often has difficulty relating to her husband, step-daughter, directors, and cast and crew--reminds of the artificiality of reality television. Because we do have personal reflections, in our minds; we just don’t have to edit them or consider what other people will think. Our thoughts keep to ourselves, unlike Cherish’s personal video diaries or interviews.

Often, Cherish tells the camera woman recording her reality show that “I need to know I’m being heard,” and this repeated statement uncovers the deep sadness of Cherish’s life: She is out of her prime, playing a bit part, and she has no control over the editors who piece the footage of her daily life into a television show.

I wouldn’t rush out to the store to buy The Comeback, but it’s at least worth borrowing through Netflix or through a friend. The program has some amusing moments, but it also presents a poignant reflection on reality television: that, regardless of how “unscripted” the program is, there are voices vying for control of the narrative.

Watch the HBO Trailer for The Comeback.


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