There’s no better evidence of how insular Hollywood is than the steady stream of films and TV shows over the years about the only subject Hollywood really knows well: Itself.
Many Hollywood-centric products have been good, and many have been airless flops. Entourage and Episodes are in the first category, and the first season of Lisa Kudrow’s The Comeback in 2005 was somewhere in the middle. The second, nine years later, is still in the middle, which is to say: funny in places, depending on your tolerance for self-satirizing self-obsessiveness.
Kudrow returns as fame-craving actress Valerie Cherish. Like her former Friends cast mate Matt LeBlanc in Episodes, Kudrow plays an exaggerated version of someone who became famous in a long-running sitcom and is now facing life, or an unreasonable facsimile thereof, after the show has ended.
The Comeback’s first season focused on Cherish trying to get famous again by starring in her own reality show after she gets a role on a new sitcom called Room and Bored, only to have her role chopped to bits.
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The second season, premiering 9 p.m. Sunday on HBO, could be described as Pirandello does premium cable as Valerie learns that Room’s creator Paulie G. (Lance Barber) has a new show in the works called Seeing Red, about a self-indulgent, talent-challenged sitcom star very much like Valerie.
Valerie is furious and ready to sue, but when she’s offered the role of Mallory Church, she’s too vain and attention-hungry to turn it down. She’s still trying to get famous through her own reality show, this time by having a bunch of college kids follow her around to film her every move in order to interest Andy Cohen in the project. The kids aren’t even film majors, which is more than obvious to everyone.
Kudrow is brilliant at playing self-deluded. She offered one version of that persona in Friends – well, two, if you count Phoebe’s twin sister Ursula – and another in her other premium cable show, Showtime’s Web Therapy, on which she plays Internet therapist Fiona Wallice.
Kudrow’s skill in this area is both a strength and a limiting factor to the success of The Comeback. To put it more simply, a little of an insufferable egomaniac goes a long way. (I have been told that often enough to know.) Fortunately, there are at least enough “little” moments to make The Comeback modestly entertaining.
Of course, if you’re in the business yourself, it’s a laugh riot.