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Summer Rewind: The Comeback Episodes 8 and 9

1 Oct

So the summer is over but our Comeback first watch isn’t and Kerensa Cadenas joins us once again to talk all things Valerie Cherish. The two episodes we are discussing this week are “Valerie Relaxes in Palm Springs” and “Valerie Hangs with the Cool Kids.”

The Comeback ep 8 Valerie on Vacation

Emma: I’m going to start with a bold statement and say I think this might be the strongest pair of The Comeback episodes that we have watched yet as we got to see Valerie away from the show and L.A. as they retool Room & Bored and an episode that explores Valerie’s role within the cast and with her family.

Starting with the trip to Palm Springs we got to see Valerie confronted with the notion that she cares far too much about what people think and how this could end up having a negative toll on her life. This observation comes from Donna, a friend of Valerie and Mark’s who Valerie is talking up until Donna comes across as brash on the camera and Valerie starts to distance herself from Donna. It turns out that Donna has recently had cancer and so this new outlook on life is a direct result of this experience. There are several moments at this dinner where Valerie is incredibly uncomfortable – first she didn’t even know that Donna had cancer (who reads Christmas newsletters) and then she is perturbed by the guy (Damian from Mean Girls!) who has been obnoxiously talking Hollywood all day on his phone and smoking cigars.

Valerie is very set in her ways and she’s not good when things deviate from a plan; the hotel has had a ‘trendy’ refurb since they last visited and the new clientele is much younger and party orientated. Valerie doesn’t like to see herself as aging, I mean who does but there is an extra burden in this industry. The trip she had planned isn’t what she ends up with, but this entire experience is a valuable one and even though I don’t think Donna’s advice will have a huge amount of impact in the long run (I mean Valerie is back to her old self in the next episode) it was good to see Valerie’s carefully controlled mask drop.

One thing that we have discussed in the past about Valerie is how she pretends that everything is ok when it really isn’t, this links into everything that Donna is trying to tell her about bottling things up and getting drunk and calling Paulie G is Valerie’s way of expelling this negativity. So far Valerie has pretty much taken every despicable piece of shit move that Paulie G has made. The reality TV cameras have captured moments where we can see that Valerie is visibly upset, but she only lets her guard drop for the briefest amount of time and then her smile is back. When Juna rings to find out where Valerie is this is an incredibly awkward moment as it’s all on speakerphone. This is another example of how self absorbed and unaware Juna is, there’s nothing malicious about this inquiry. Valerie is in no state to call Paulie G – she can’t even find his name on her phone and suggests looking under Fatty – but Jane isn’t going to let this piece of the real Valerie go to waste and she does what she’s not meant to and helps make the call. I thought the message was going to feel like a triumphant moment; instead it made me feel incredibly sad as she tells Paulie G that he has hurt her feelings. I was wondering what impact if any this would have on their relationship and it turns out the answer is none.

The episode closes with “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick and this is the perfect anthem for Valerie – it’s also a song that I will forever associate with Joey Potter from Dawson’s Creek and 10 Things I Hate About You. If you haven’t seen the Joey version here it is:


There’s quite a bit more to talk about including Valerie showing just how ruthless she can be but I’m going to throw it across to you to see what you thought of Donna’s observation/advice.

Kerensa: I agree entirely, I think this pair of episode were by far the strongest we’ve seen so far.

I loved Valerie’s friend, Donna, and I think she gave Valerie some of the real talk advice that she desperately needs, even if she won’t use it. Valerie is terrible at just letting go–you can just see how tense she gets when things aren’t how she expected or needed them to be. I mean her reaction to the hotel’s renovated decor was hilarious and super cringey. Also, I think that the bell boy guy who was showing her around was on some 90s Saturday Morning teen show, it was either USA High or maybe the Saved by the Bell: The New Class, but he looked super familiar. And Damian! He was perfect as a typical LA douchebag. In related LA douchebag things to say, I was at a VIP gay pool party he was at once. I did not talk to him cause I was too nervous.

I think the thing with this episode that was so thrilling for me was to get those little glimpses of the actual Valerie. I think The Comeback is fascinating because we have this character who is so filtered, even to us. Like we’ve discussed before, neither of us have a really great idea of who Valerie actually is because we aren’t shown that side of her. So seeing her snap at the car guy or learning that she has Paulie G under “Fatty” in her phone is so interesting to me. While I know that drunk dialing Paulie G was a rookie move (I did that this weekend 😦 ), I felt so excited that she did it. While it obviously won’t change anything, it was nice to kinda see her not “give any fucks.”

This Dawson’s Creek clip is ridiculous–Joey’s shirt! “Punk” Chad Michael Murray! Why is there a live band?! But I do agree that it’s the perfect song for Valerie. Also, I’ve never watched all of Dawson’s Creek

We have to talk about Valerie’s ruthlessness because at times the people she’s kinda exploiting aren’t terrible. It’s super uncomfortable to watch.

The Comeback ep 8 Valerie and Donna

Emma: With regard to Dawson’s Creek I’ve spoken about the huge influence it had on my haircut and while it was one of my favorite shows at high school when I started university I only ended up seeing a handful of episodes. This was back before all the many ways that we can watch TV now and so I think things like sleep or being out got in the way. I’ve been meaning to do a full rewatch but haven’t found the time and I still haven’t seen the final episode and as we’ve discussed before I think we still need to do some kind of Dawson’s Creek related viewing project. I mean scenes like this will totally make it worth it.

Back to The Comeback and Valerie’s reaction to the car guy and this got funnier with each time that he tried to get Mark to say the car name. That’s the thing with product placement as it always sounds so unnatural and forced as no one calls their car by the full make and model name. As far as product placement goes I don’t tend to have an issue with it because I get that it makes sense from a business perspective but there are times that it can take you out of the moment and it reminds you that the thing you are watching is also so you buy shit. There are some shows like 30 Rock that handled all of this stuff in the funny obvious way that you would expect and others like New Girl that missed the mark last season with the episode “Models.” This seems like The Comeback’s way of getting their product placement in and turning it into a joke within the show. With something like Sex and the City it was an advertisers dream but I wonder how many of those big name labels actually paid to have their stuff in the show, I’m guessing very few.

Valerie is so incredibly ruthless as she convinces someone who is not out to his parents to sign a waiver so that he can be on the show. The gay couple are big fans of Valerie and it’s good to see Valerie have this happy encounter but it all becomes a bit seedy when she backs the guy into a corner so this moment can be used. As you said it’s uncomfortable to see her push this hard, particularly with something that will have a huge impact on this guys life. It also made me think of the Mickey situation that we saw a few weeks ago where he was also cagey about how his sexuality was being perceived on camera.

Both this and the second episode have big Valerie meltdown moments and when Lisa Kudrow lets it all go and freaks out it is hilarious. The first one is the after effects of Valerie taking a sleeping pill and she loses out on the good pool chairs, the other is when she gets the call at home to say that everyone else is at work except her. The subtle stuff that Kudrow does is great, but it’s in these really big moments that we get to see what a great physical comic actress she is.

What did you think about the way Mark reacted on the golf course? Do you feel like we know him any better now?

The Comeback ep 8 Valerie and Mark

Kerensa: I was so excited for Valerie when the couple came up to her and she seemed genuinely excited too. But when she basically coerced that guy into essentially coming out on her show and totally to benefit her, it was pretty horrifying to watch. It’s interesting to see Valerie be so ruthless with people that genuinely care about her and for her to not use those same tactics on someone like Paulie G. Her sheer intimidation by him is so strange to me. I mean, really, Paulie G? He’s some bullshit sitcom writer who has an Emmy and is a gross, misogynistic slob. But I guess that idea of feeding on those who are weaker on you maybe holds some weight here, which is supremely sad.

Mark’s reaction on the golf course was hilarious and pretty spot on. Granted, I don’t/can’t play any sports but I would be super uncomfortable about being filmed while I was playing especially if I wasn’t doing great. And I still can’t get a handle on Mark–and maybe that’s the point. He’s totally guarding himself while the cameras are on. Although I will say is that he does seem to be a calming presence for Valerie’s more than manic edges. What do you think?

The Comeback ep 8 passed out Valerie

Emma: I get the impression that Mark didn’t want to come across as a terrible golfer as this seems like something he takes super seriously so the fact that the cameras were distracting him made this even worse for him. That and Valerie’s ringtone which is pretty obnoxious and even though Valerie said this was going to be a phone free weekend she hasn’t put her phone on silent. I seem to recall the mid-2000s was a time when everyone used ringtones still, this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore and if this was now we’d get some awkward phone vibrating on a table noises.

I agree with you about Mark and I think because he is a lawyer he is being reserved and closed off to protect his career. Every time Valerie tells the car guy that he’s got to stop with his product placement interruptions Mark’s expression shows that he is happy with Valerie stepping in. Mark doesn’t fawn over Valerie and her fame and I think this adds to the calming presence so while in other episodes where it seems like a negative thing that he doesn’t get her, on this occasion it works and they work.

Moving on to the next episode; there are two main threads here with Valerie’s relationship with her stepdaughter and the major shakeup with Room & Bored. As we’re talking about Valerie and Mark I’m going to start with Francesca. The few times we have seen Francesca it’s clear that her new found interest in Valerie is because of the cameras and we get to meet Francesca’s equally fame hungry current BFF Kalla (played by a very young looking pre OC Willa Holland). Both girls have a new obsession with Juna and her new album so Valerie becomes even more likable to them thanks to her access to Juna. This doesn’t stop them from talking shit to Valerie, smoking – it’s ok they’re American Spirit – and being infinitely embarrassed because their teenagers. We also get to see some more Sidekick action as the girls communicate with each other via their phones even when they’re sitting next to each other. Once again Atkins gets a mentioning reminding us this is very much 2005.

This is one of the first occasions where Valerie’s fame helps them cut the long line of people waiting to have their CDs signed by Juna – what do people sign now that digital music sells so much more than physical copies? Valerie has authority issues with the girls and she hasn’t quite developed a rapport with them that means they take her seriously. The main reason why Valerie is being so nice to Kalla in the first place is because she has connections to Kevin Costner and this is another occasion where Valerie sees an opportunity that might benefit her career. The only Kevin Valerie gets to meet is one of the boys that has come over while Valerie is out and this leads to a hilarious game of chase around Valerie’s back yard.

What did you think about Valerie’s interactions with Francesca and Kalla?

The Comeback ep 9 Kalla and Francesca

Kerensa: Another hallmark of the times–Francesca’s Balenciaga bag!

I feel like when Valerie is around Francesca, she desperately wants her to like her. I think this is even more magnified by having the cameras around. Valerie’s a cool mom, not a real mom! But at the same time having the cameras there magnifies how clueless Valerie is when it comes to parenting. She wants to be cool but she still wants to be a parent which I think is super apparent in a lot of her actions. She takes the girls to Juna’s signing because it shows that she’s hip, has cool friends and has clout. But then she takes away Kalla’s cigarette and is automatically uncool again.

And then at the end of the episode, when Valerie leaves them alone, not purposefully obviously but trusts them enough to leave them there. When she comes back they are all drinking and smoking and have invited a bunch of other kids over. And Valerie’s “cool” exterior cracks again when she begins screaming at all of them and chasing that kid around the yard, which was hilarious.

But Valerie can’t seem to find a happy medium between both these sides of herself when it comes to parenting Francesca and even parenting her co-stars at Room & Bored. I think Valerie’s constant contradiction with this is totally mirrored in the situation at work and Mark especially nails it when he tells her, “[You] are as bad as Francesca with peer pressure.”

What do you think?

The Comeback ep 9 Valerie

Emma: I think you’re spot on with this Valerie assessment and it mirrors what Donna was saying to her in the previous episode; Valerie just can’t let go and this image she wants to project is a pipe dream. With the work situation up to this point Valerie has been the consummate professional through vile jokes and snide remarks so for her to ditch work it’s a big deal. As you mention Mark references Valerie’s inability to not going along with the group and on this occasion because she is acting like the mother of the cast she feels like she has to stand with them. Of course they all go into work and forget to tell Valerie, not out of cruelty but because they are so focused on themselves that they just don’t consider it. Oh and because Kellan Lutz can’t stop crying – this was hilarious and even though I don’t think he’s a very good actor he’s perfect for this part.

The work situation is terrible because they’ve added two new characters (it took me forever to realize that Kaveen is Jonathan from 30 Rock) and they’re taking screen time away from everyone except Juna. This divides the original 5 and you can tell that it means a lot to Juna that Valerie went to her signing (which she only did to be the cool mom). I also love that they tried to have an important work chat in the middle of the signing, they’re both so unaware sometimes.

Now the new characters and considering the racist stereotypes criticism that has been voiced about Michael Patrick King’s current show 2 Broke Girls, this is a critique of those same practices that occur with minority characters on sitcoms. The whole thing is super cringey from how much Paulie G and the writers are laughing at their put on accents to Valerie doing an impression of them to Mark and then repeating this back to them. It’s a whole circle of awkward and it subverts what you think might happen – at first it looks like they are playing incredibly racist representations of Indians, but they’re putting on those accents to get in with Juna. This is followed by them calling out Valerie when she does her impression and they tell her they’re fucking with her.

When Valerie tells them that they won’t be able to use any footage that has swearing they start emphasizing this word instead. They’re basically jerks and you can see why Paulie G has a comedy boner for them.

How do you think The Comeback handled the notion of racist stereotypes?

The Comeback ep 9 Valerie and the cast

Kerensa: I think they handled it pretty well. I mean it was a spot on critique of what we’ve seen in terms of 2 Broke Girls and Dads–just lame, lazy racist humor that’s packaged as “edgy.” And if you think it’s racist, you are too sensitive. Doesn’t Valerie say something basically along those lines? Like being “cool” with non-PC humor. I mean it would have been interesting if anyone would have called it out, but everyone was too concerned with their jobs and probably wouldn’t have even if they weren’t.

And of course Paulie G thinks it’s hilarious. Ugh. The Comeback has really nailed the perfect inside look of a terrible sitcom that we would all be complaining about on Twitter and would use its negative critiques as publicity but would still miraculously get ratings!

It’s also hilarious that after the re-tooling–the first thing they decide to do is make the show MORE racist! Since that makes a ton of sense.

Emma: Yeah they’re all too concerned with how many of their lines are getting cut rather than the awful direction the already awful Room & Bored has taken. I wonder if anyone will mention it in the next episode if it continues this way. Valerie has called attention to a racist joke in the past (Korean barbecue/puppies) but that’s because she was worried that it would turn the audience against her, so she definitely has awareness of the line that exists. You’re right about things being branded as edgy as an attempt to excuse lazy, ignorant writing and how this is the perfect satire of bad sitcoms.

I think this is why The Comeback has such a strong reputation; even though there are only 13 episodes it manages to dissect everything that can make a sitcom terrible.

Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is a staff writer for Women and Hollywood. She also writes for This Was TelevisionForever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. She was the Research Editor for Tomorrow magazine. You can follow her on Twitter and read her ridiculous thoughts about teen television at her website.

 

 

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One Response to “Summer Rewind: The Comeback Episodes 8 and 9”

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  1. Catch Up on The Comeback | TV Ate My Wardrobe - November 4, 2014

    […] “Valerie Relaxes in Palm Springs” and “Valerie Hangs with the Cool Kids” […]

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