BY INKOO KANG
|A Season 1 Kardashian|
Minor spoilers for the second episode of The Comeback's sophomore season.
It's no mystery why The Comeback, which returned for its second season this past Sunday after a nine-year hiatus, never became a big hit for HBO. Other mockumentaries like The Office, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family have thrived, but Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King's Hollywood-based cringe comedy centers on a protagonist who's uniquely difficult to relate to: a middle-aged, out-of-work actress whose career depends on eating shit with a polite grin, and who doesn't mind making certain other people eat shit too when she's in the position to do so.
The Comeback's eight-episode sophomore season is powerful and amusing and sad, and Kudrow is astoundingly good as Valerie Cherish, the gratingly chirpy has-been sitcom star barely suppressing her enormous desperation and rage. Season 2 finds Valerie signing up for a co-starring role in an HBO drama that's written by and based on the experiences of her hateful ex Paulie G. (Lance Barber). Valerie plays Mallory, a misogynistic caricature of herself, while omnipresent cameras hired by the actress film her every move and humiliation, like being told by a network exec that she "still look[s] real," i.e., old.
It's telling, though, that these eight new episodes take their aim not at reality TV (like the first season did) but at the testosterone-fueled, sexually exploitative, auteur-driven cable dramas that HBO's proudest offerings comprise. The season premiere does feature cameos from RuPaul, Top Chef's Carla Hall, and Beverly Hills Housewives cast member Lisa Vanderpump, as well as name-checks of other Housewives Bethenny Frankel and Teresa Giudice. But as anxious and reckless as Valerie is with her professional choices, even she's over reality TV: "I was there at the beginning [of the genre] with The Comeback [Valerie's reality show]. Back then, it was just me and people eating bugs on Survivor." Cameras still follow Valerie around everywhere, but it's no longer for a shot at Bravo's schedule; rather, they're creating behind-the-scenes footage for Valerie's new show, Seeing Red. More »