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Hello, Hello, Hello: The Comeback 2.05 “Valerie is Taken Seriously” Discussion

13 Dec

The Comeback continues to be one of the year’s best shows as it examines Hollywood perceptions through Valerie Cherish with the word ‘brave’ in terms of performance taking center stage this week. I am once again joined by Kerensa Cadenas and we’re both a little concerned for where everything Paulie G related is heading for Valerie this season.

the Comeback 2.05 ValEmma: A reporter from the New York Times calls Valerie’s Seeing Red performance “brave” and this sends Valerie spiralling because she thinks brave is a reference to how she looks. As we know Valerie is all about how she appears and she never wants to come across in a negative light, which tends to make her look bad by extension. The Comeback is the ultimate show in terms of the terms ‘unlikeable’ and ‘difficult’ in that it explores what these characteristics mean while the lead character is trying to do everything in her power to be liked. Fame is Valerie’s ultimate goal but she’s determined to be seen positively along the way, that might be an even stronger impulse for her so when she’s called ‘brave’ and she sees the dailies it horrifies her.

It’s rare for Valerie to snap, but she does exactly this when Jane insists on use low lighting. This is exactly the kind of set up that Valerie views as insinuating that she looks terrible. Brave does get thrown around in terms of performance so often that it really has lost its meaning – Julia Roberts is brave for not being made up in The Normal Heart, Jennifer Aniston in Cake, Charlize Theron in Monster and the list goes on – and it does tend to mean when a glamorous stunning actress looks normal. It’s insulting to both their performances and every regular person. Or what Lena Dunham and her attitude towards nudity, which is also referred to as brave rather than the actual work she is doing. And this is what Valerie is told brave means in this context as Valerie has never been seen like this before, not unmade up but emotionally raw.

I’ve got to say that while the script is clearly a turd (because Paulie G will always be a hack) it’s quite captivating seeing Valerie acting like this and while I’m not surprised that she is great, I think she is surprised by what she sees in these dailies and it scares her.

What did you think of the whole ‘brave’ aspect?

the comeback 2.05 dailliesKerensa: I thought that Valerie’s reaction to being called ‘brave’ was exactly how Valerie and maybe anyone would take it in that position. But I agree with you, while Paulie G’s lack of talent is apparent, Valerie crushes it. She’s so good, even in the low lighting. Good enough for Mickey to say, “wow you can act Red!”

I think the sad thing though in the episode is just how intensely Val ties that ‘brave’ to how she looks where you can almost sense her desperately about to claw her face off the entire episode until she speaks to the NY Times reporter at the end of the episode.

What also seems to scare Val is this idea that we’ve discussed over and over again and is always discussed and I’m so tired of: unlikeability. Val knows that this role will make people see her differently and she’s terrified that means they won’t like her. I think it’s one of the reasons why she overcompensates so much with Paulie G, even though she shouldn’t give a fuck, but she can sense how much he loathes her and she’s desperate to change that, even now. It’s why she goes to Tom to see about helping Paulie. She can’t stand people not liking her in both her personal life and public life which could possibly change.

The Comeback 2.05 ValerieEmma: Unlikeable as a term to describe character needs to be done with and it definite only seems to aply to women – men are difficult, women are unlikeable. Flawed is a much better way to describe what we all are and one of Valerie’s greatest flaws is her drive to get people to like her. As you mention this is why she is so determined to get Paulie G to change what is a very strong hatred (let’s not sugarcoat this is as it goes way beyond disliking) as she can’t stand to be seen like this. I think this is a pretty common reaction especially as Paulie G’s reaction to Val far outweighs anything she has ever done to him, can he really justify why she is the monster who rips apart his inner child? Val goes way beyond the point most people would if they were to experience this level of abuse, but Val doesn’t know when to quit and this determination is both a strength and flaw.

Going to see Tom is Valerie’s way of trying to help out Paulie and after the suicide that ended last week’s episode, plus Paulie’s needle comment and signs that he is cracking under the pressure she thinks Tom can help. But Tom doesn’t give a shit about Paulie and is pissed that Paulie as the fuck up is the one who got the HBO show. I don’t have a huge amount of sympathy for Tom as while he never reached Paulie G levels of vile, he was still a massive shit at times. What do you make of his outburst?

Another person who has a meltdown is Billy and a lot of this episode covers the fear of getting left behind. Billy feels undermined when HBO ask him to scrap all the interviews he has set up (and they are all with reputable sites) and thinks that it is history repeating with yet another client leaving him behind. There’s a lot of ego in this business and everyone is striving to get ahead so it’s not surprising that nerves are frayed and Billy has always had a temper issue. His terrible attempt at leaving dramatically only to come back for his phone had me in stitches. Poor Billy, but hey he gets his job back at the end.

the comeback 2.05 BillyKerensa: Billy’s meltdown was funny and completely made sense to me, but at least for me, watching anything after Val’s meeting with Tom was kinda hard to pay attention to. Their whole interaction made me feel nauseous. Not because Tom necessarily did anything wrong–but finding out more that happened behind the scenes in that Room & Bored writers room was horrifying. I felt bad for Tom when he complained about how much Paulie G had fucked up but was still able to make it within the industry. And there was Tom, who did everything he felt was right, and is stuck working on Nick shows.

When Tom mentioned all the horrific things that Paulie G said about Val–wasn’t there something about wanting to basically murder her–I just felt this awful sinking feeling. I don’t think The Comeback is going to GO THERE obviously, but I am so so nervous about what is going to happen with Paulie G and Val. It’s just been building and I’m really stressed about it.

Are you feeling like that? Am I just being insane?

the comeback 2.05 val and tomEmma: If definitely sucks that Paulie G has been gifted his own comeback while Tom’s career was torpedoed by Room and Bored. And pretty much everything that happened in that writers’ room sounds incredibly toxic and horrifying. Tom definitely alludes to Paulie G saying he wanted to harm Val, how he called Valerie the devil and said they should “find a stake and pound it through your heart. If you have one.” He also explicitly warns her to stay away from Paulie G and while I hadn’t considered that he would hurt her before you mentioned it, he did write a sequence with Mitch with a shotgun outside Malory’s house so his mind has definitely gone there.

I second your stressed out feelings and it is a vibe that is permeating the whole show, so much so that the documentary is now going to be focusing on this relationship. It’s like everyone is aware of how much Paulie G hates Valerie and I find it hard to believe she is that oblivious to it all. Maybe it’s just her grin and bear it demeanor but I wonder how long she is going to tolerate the way he treats her and if she pushes back what he will do next.

He’s clearly crumbling under the pressure and Valerie is getting positive notes, which is also not going to help his negative feelings. Also what do you think Paulie G made of his replacement director?

The Comeback 2.05 Val and Paulie GKerensa: Actually the whole Paulie G’s replacement director thing was weird to me. She was SUPER annoying I thought. And I bet he hated it because he couldn’t be in control because he’s falling apart.

What did you think?

Emma: She was weirdly a bit cutesy for me with the whole dance thing, I’m guessing they wanted to go for the complete opposite type of director who is warm and encouraging but it came across as a little forced. But I’m happy that it probably/definitely pissed Paulie G off. And I found the green screen stuff to be very disorientating aesthetically which makes sense as it is meant to throw Valerie as well. I did like how she didn’t really get that the fake audience were laughing on cue and so she really dug that reaction as it felt real to her.

What did you make of Mark’s decision to go ahead and get a sublet now they are using their house to double as a hospital?

the comeback 2.05 Valerie and MickeyKerensa: Mark’s decision to get a sublet is just another ingredient to my anxiety about this final episode. Seeing Val’s face when she says that to the camera while trying to blow it off as nothing is A+ from Kudrow who totally nails the almost casual anguish (is that a thing) that Val is trying to hide. But it does make me even more worried for her. Mark’s always been her rock, a really grounding force, and if he’s gone, then what?

Emma: Val doesn’t have a whole lot of people she can really rely on and with Mark reaching his fame breaking point, it’s only really Mickey that she has truly on her side (I’d argue you Jane as well, but she’s definitely not in the same support league as Mark and Mickey). Mickey has his own concerns of course with his skin cancer diagnosis and it’s unclear what’s going on there as it didn’t get mentioned this week. I’m pretty concerned about that as week. Everything is stacking up and it feels like the breaking point is coming. And I think Valerie is the poster child for casual anguish.

Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is an Editor for Snakkle. She also writes for Women and HollywoodThe WeekThis Was TelevisionForever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. You can follow her on Twitter to read her thoughts on teen TV, snacks and terrible pop music.

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