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Summer Rewind: The Hour

23 Jul

The summer TV schedule isn’t as light as it once was and so it can be harder to squeeze in catch up projects of recent and not so long ago shows you missed. Last year I blasted through Scandal and took a slightly longer route with The Comeback, pairing a current show dominating discussion with one that is often featured on “Canceled Too Soon” lists (The Comeback is making its own comeback much to my delight in November). In a somewhat unplanned decision this has been repeated this year, first with Game of Thrones taking the Scandal position followed by the 2011 BBC 2 series The Hour.

Why I didn’t watch The Hour when it first aired is a bit of a mystery as it has all the elements that I find appealing – great cast, a writer I admire, a 1950s setting, fantastic looking costumes and a spy plot – and it’s even more curious as to why it has taken me so long to get to it. Yesterday I contemplated a Gossip Girl rewatch (I blame Preserve and this incredible Leighton Meester op-ed) and instead decided it was time to start The Hour as the boxset had been sitting on my desk untouched for a week. The length of the show (a total of 12 episodes) as it was pointed out to me on Twitter made the choice a no-brainer. And I’m so glad I did as less than 24 hours later I have finished season 1; it’s love.

Drooling over the costume design and giving out Diane Lockhart broach accessorizing points has occurred throughout these first six episodes and there will be a separate post dedicated to costuming. A more general approach to the first season is how I will be tackling The Hour today and there are some slight spoilers throughout.

The Hour cast shotIt’s 1956 and the world is feeling pretty unstable; the Cold War rages on and there is political unrest across the globe. These larger events are told through a new BBC news program which distills the events of the week into “The Hour.” The Suez Crisis frames much of the first season and just like a current HBO show it uses real events to infuse tension into the story as we see how the characters respond to the big story.

Unlike The Newsroom it doesn’t feel like it is preaching or attempting to teach in a condescending manner. This might have something to do with the time frame as there are only going to be a certain number of viewers who remember the Suez Crisis whereas you can all but guarantee that the BP oil spill or 9/11 are relatively fresh memories for The Newsroom’s audience. One other notable difference is The Hour is created and written by Abi Morgan, whereas Aaron Sorkin is at the helm of The Newsroom; a repeated criticism of Sorkin’s recent project is the treatment of the female characters and while The Hour is set in a time where sexism was far more inherent, it comes across as the more enlightened of the two. Bel still faces comments and assumptions based on her gender, but she’s allowed to make mistakes without looking like an idiot. No they don’t have email in The Hour, but I bet they wouldn’t pull the same stunt as MacKenzie’s “send all” error. Comparison time over.

The HourGetting accurate information when reporting the news is still not an easy task in 2014, even harder in 1956 without the technology that can hinder as much as help in the present day. The phone is one of the most reliable forms they have in The Hour and seeing reels of film getting cut together evokes nostalgic feelings for a form that was in no doubt way more of faff. And yet there is something glorious about seeing the individual frames.

Idealism, cynicism and pragmatism create a constant push/pull between the three leads; while the establishment they work for is dedicated to an impartial position there is still a rigid power system in place that threatens to censor and assert control. Freddie’s tenacity and drive to find the truth has the potential to destroy everything they have all worked towards and there are other sinister operatives at play with a mole in the BBC (*sidenote* thanks to a saturation of moles on 24 I often roll my eyes at this plot point, I did think it was well executed here and fits the cloak and dagger nature of the time period). What drives these characters varies and ambition is far more important to Dominic West’s Hector than the pursuit of truth, for Bel (the fantastic Romola Garai) she wants to keep the job she has worked so hard for and yet she is willing to risk it for the story.

the hour bel and freddieConflict comes in all forms including romantic entanglements such as the affair between the married Hector – Oona Chaplin plays his high society wife Marnie who knows of his affairs and uses the great tool of denial with a broad fake smile to maintain the facade – and Bel. Affairs can be dangerous and this one between producer and presenter has all the trappings of broken hearts and the potential for ruining careers. Enter Freddie as Bel’s best friend, he stands in the shadows pining for the woman he calls Moneypenny (the first James Bond novel Casino Royale was published in 1953 and a copy sits on Freddie’s desk) and he not so subtly infers his love for her on many occasion quoting E.E. Cummings and stirring up all my shipper feelings. There’s an intimacy between these two that can be summed up by unspoken cigarette sharing and how comfortable they are in each other’s company. Tumblr gif sets I will be coming for you later.

Balancing a variety of stories including wars raging on several continents with tensions on the homefront and tying them together through acts of espionage makes the big story personal; Freddie justified his reckless actions for this reason and his passion for the truth is both dangerous and honorable. There is of course the potential for a character like Freddie to become a “troubled genius who is always right” trope and yet he is grounded thanks to such a strong performance from Ben Whishaw, his relationship/chemistry with Bel and because the writing doesn’t quite go ‘there’ with Freddie. There is some sense of self-awareness even as he nears the edge of the precarious path he is on. How long it will stay like this is unclear at this point and the next six episodes are sitting on my desk just crying out to be watched.

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Summer Rewind: The Comeback Episodes 10-13

24 Mar

Big things are maybe happening with The Comeback and there’s a chance Valerie Cherish may grace our screens once again. The timing of this announcement is pretty perfect as we’ve finally finished our “Summer Rewind.” That majority of this discussion with Kerensa Cadenas took place long before this announcement and it’s something we only address at the end. We’re both pretty excited about this possible return as we’ve become pretty attached to this character. We’re looking at the final four episodes; “Valerie Gets a Magazine Cover,” “Valerie Stands Out on the Red Carpet,” “Valerie Shines Under Stress” and “Valerie Does Another Classic Leno.” For more from our Summer Rewind head here.

The Comeback ep 10 bathEmma: So it’s been a few months since we last talked about The Comeback as various other projects/moving house/all the TV that is on has got in the way but we’re finally back to talk about the last four episodes of The Comeback. I’m pretty devastated that unlike Valerie’s own reality show, the actual Comeback didn’t get a second season and I completely understand why it is put alongside Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life as the one season wonders we wish there was more of.

In the final four episodes Valerie’s long standing battle with Paulie G comes to a vomit filled head (did not see that coming), her reality show premieres, the cast head to the People’s Choice Awards, Valerie gets a magazine cover and a Scandalous publicist. One thing I want to note is how each episode title is pretty much the Valerie version of what happens – “Valerie Saves the Show,” “Valerie Demands Dignity,” “Valerie Stands Out on the Red Carpet,” “Valerie Shines Under Stress” – Valerie tends to ignore negative aspects and tries to make the best out of a situation. We see this time and time again throughout The Comeback and instead of making things better, the opposite occurs. This is why her actual reality show is such a hot mess and a hit.

The first of our four episodes is all about Hollywood/celebrity fakery when her new publicist Billy (Scandal star and long time Lisa Kudrow producing partner Dan Bucatinsky) gets her the cover of “Be Yoga.” It’s not Redbook like Valerie wants, but it’s a step and the only issue is Valerie doesn’t really do yoga no matter how much she says she does. Thanks to Mark’s painkiller truth bombs Valerie has to keep correcting him on camera. Drugged up Mark is wonderful and I really like his character now after being so unsure for the first half of the season. He’s pretty genuine which is unusual in the world of reality TV and he’s not trying to be someone that he isn’t. In this episode he is even more blasé thanks to the painkillers and it makes Valerie’s sudden interest in yoga more transparent.

Turning the gym into a place of sanctuary involves a whole lot of remodeling which costs a fortune and this also feels like the show is passing judgment on the ridiculous amount of money people will spend on tranquility. It is a fad after all and after this magazine shoot how much time will Valerie spend with a $12000 Buddha?

Of course Valerie is doing this as a reaction to Juna’s very Rolling Stone Rolling Stone cover, the mock up looks like an actual issue and they’ve perfectly captured what kind of wet t-shirt image they would use for someone like Juna. And there’s a terrible pun to boot “Got Millken?” Valerie’s been saving all of Juna’s press clippings and this is part supportive co-star and part wish fulfillment. Hollywood’s such a breeding ground for competitiveness and longing, particularly when it comes to who is in demand that Valerie’s actions probably aren’t all that uncommon when there is someone who is considered the hot new thing versus someone who is in the second half of their career and it’s probably really hard to maintain a healthy, balanced attitude towards these things. This is why they need yoga and this also turns into a Juna thing as she’s invited along to Valerie’s yoga session. Juna of course ends up in US Weekly’s Stars They’re Just Like Us feature – this is my favorite part of this magazine because of how damn ridiculous it is. Valerie isn’t included and so her shining moment gets usurped by the younger star once again.

Valerie brings in a poster of when she posed in a barely done up shirt, super cleav and undone jeans from her It days and I’m glad that it didn’t come across as this desperate attempt to hold onto her youth. I think she just wanted to show that she is more than just a frumpy tracksuit. What did you think of this scene and particularly Tom and Paulie G’s reactions to it?

The Comeback ep 10 Rolling StoneKerensa: I really like the relationship between Valerie and Juna–while it does have those undertones of Valerie being jealous of Juna’s newly minted “it” girl status (I wonder if the show has got a second season if they would have explored this) it does seem based in a pretty genuine place.

I think that Valerie bringing in her poster to the set kinda straddles the line of that. She looks great in the picture (although I loved the line about her hair being 90s–when it looks exactly the same) and Tom and Paulie G’s reactions were pretty priceless. I thought Paulie G’s was creepy and condescending seeming per usual. I can’t with him, especially in these last episode. Holy crap.

What did you think about this scene?

The Comeback ep 10 posterEmma: The Juna/Valerie dynamic is one of my favorites on The Comeback as it really wasn’t what I expected, this notion applies to a lot of this show. I’m not sure if Malin Akerman’s work on Trophy Wife has influenced my feelings (because I love that show), but I’ve really grown to love Juna and all her naïveté. She could have been the bitch of the show and her super sweet persona feels pretty genuine. I’m really sad that we won’t get to see if success and fame would change her, from the looks of things I’d say probably not and she’s always been very supportive and thankful for Valerie’s presence.

It’s the writers after all that play the role of mean girl and their reaction to Valerie’s poster is typical of how they have been in every other way – Tom is sheepish and Paulie G is repulsive and yet he can’t quite bring himself to admit that he finds Valerie attractive. Paulie G has consistently used silence as a way to put her down.

After watching the penultimate episode I said on Twitter that Paulie G would feature on a most despised list and his systematic bullying has been the hardest aspect of this show to watch. When Valerie finally loses it and punches him in the stomach I definitely cheered, even when it was followed by the double vomit comet. I mean this also becomes her reality show defining moment even if it’s for the wrong reasons.

We’ve got a lot to talk about when it comes to these writers and especially Paulie G, what do you think they were intending to say with Paulie’s nice guy routine in his one on one?

The Comeback ep 11 JunaKerensa: I agree with you on everything about Juna and Trophy Wife which I love so much. It was really great that Juna’s character didn’t fall into the stereotype that it very well could have.

I cheered so loudly with the punch scene as well. It was just SO satisfying to see Valerie stand up for herself against him after everything she’s taken from him.

Honestly, with Paulie G’s sudden “nice guy” transformation in his one on one, I didn’t believe it for a second. My first thought was that he got paid to say that or threatened/told that the Room and Bored ratings would suffer–pretty much anything along those lines. While we’ve been aware that Valerie’s show would be spun into something unfavorable towards her, it sucked to see her witness it and Paulie G’s sudden respect for Valerie really was another double vomit punch in the gut. What did you think?

The Comeback ep 12 cupcakeEmma: I just hope Trophy Wife doesn’t go the way of The Comeback with one season only.

That’s a really great way to describe how Paulie G’s kind words felt and it highlights how these testimonials are the most fake aspect of reality shows.

As soon as Jane returned from doing Paulie G’s interview it was obvious that something was up and one aspect we haven’t discussed too much is the role of Jane and this final episode shows that as a producer Jane is here to interfere when it helps the narrative like asking Valerie to start a sentence with “I feel” but she also withholds information as she doesn’t tell Valerie that Paulie G was nice about her. This is why Jane prentends she’s sick for Valerie’s viewing party as she’s aware of all the behind the scenes aspects, no she didn’t edit the piece but she feels complicit.

For a brief moment I thought Jane was in cahoots with Paulie G, especially when she wouldn’t let her in her apartment, but then I remembered that Jane has been just as repulsed by Paulie G as we have been. The relationship between producer and reality star is a complicated one I’m sure and of course the timeouts that Valerie implemented are timeouts on her end only. I think Jane probably thought Valerie was an idiot at first, but she’s definitely grown to like her. It’s little things like Valerie giving her the gift bag she got at the People’s Choice awards (how I would love an wards gift bag) or how Jane tears up as she hears Valerie’s story about her scoliosis – I definitely want to talk more about this in relation to Valerie.

Despite being screamed at by Valerie and Mark, Jane looks really happy for Valerie at the end of the final episode and if there had been a second season *sob* I would have liked to see them explore Jane and her relationship as producer with Valerie. What do you think of the whole Jane aspect?

Also have you seen any of Kroll Show? PubLIZity nails everything about these kinds of reality shows.

The Comeback ep 13 Valerie and JaneKerensa: I love Kroll Show and PubLIZity is the best! Jenny Slate should be in everything! And it really does.

I think the relationship between Jane and Valerie is really interesting. And it became apparent that they bonded in small ways throughout the show. The first moment of that to me was when Valerie got her that gift bag from the People’s Choice Awards. I never thought that Jane was in cahoots with Paulie G. because she obviously hated him so much too. So I do think Valerie’s betrayal felt kinda justified especially because Jane disappeared because she had seen the final cut and felt ashamed. But I know Valerie plays herself off as being naive, but I mean how could she not have expected the show to turn out like that? I know that we are jaded with the amount of reality television we’ve both seen and by now we are aware of the editing tricks used, but did Valerie really think that it was going to portray her in a positive light?

And then when she kinda at the end of the show seems to accept this new public persona of Valerie–I wonder if the second season would have explored her doing the kinds of things she refused to do in this season? Would have it turned Valerie into a monster? I do hope that Jane would have stayed on in the second season to explore that relationship between the two of them because it became SO apparent how much Valerie ended up relying on her especially when the creepy mic guy showed up again.

The Comeback poster ep 12Emma: Now I want to take a look at the evolution between reality shows first and second seasons – how they evolve because of what the audience responded to in the first season. I mean it goes for scripted shows as well – the first season is written in a bubble of sorts as it hasn’t been seen by anyone so at that point no one knows what people will like/dislike. I mean Girls is a prime example as cable shows tend to have most of their season written/filmed before any of it has aired so they can’t respond to criticism until the second season. Network is different as they can tweak as the season goes along and this can be very beneficial. With reality shows I’m guessing it’s more of the cable model in that it’s all filmed prior to airing. With something like the Kardashians I find it so surreal that they make a huge deal about plot points that we already know the ending to – like the big engagements/breakups. In fact this is a show I’d like to watch S1 of just to see how different it is to the way they are now.

So slight digression there and my favorite Valerie moments are the ones where she is truly herself, like all of the smoking scenes in the finale are hilarious, as is every single time that Mark mentions the coke they did that one time. Speaking of Mark, I really changed my opinion of him over these last four episodes and think he’s really pretty great. He goes all protective over Valerie whenever Paulie G is mentioned and offers to come to the studio and when she turns him down he doesn’t go all macho man and let’s her deal with it herself. He’s also pretty hilarious when he’s high on pain killers. Mark isn’t part of the Hollywood scene and so his reticence at the start is totally understandable, especially when you factor in his own career as a lawyer. I don’t think he’s more reality TV savvy than Valerie, I just think it’s his natural instincts as a lawyer to not trust anyone, especially in this town. How do you feel about Mark now the show has ended?

The Comeback ep 10 Valerie and MarkKerensa: I ended up really loving Mark too. And like you mentioned, I think he’s really good for Valerie because he isn’t involved in Hollywood. Those smoking scenes were HILARIOUS. But I really do like the relationship that became established between them and how supportive he was of Valerie even when she was being nuts.

And I think that evolution would be super interesting especially in terms of The Comeback. Like if it had got a second season–would the show have hinted that Valerie’s sudden fame was because of the show that they were shooting? Also, if there was a second season, how would Room & Bored even be on the air still? Right?

The Comeback ep 13 ValerieEmma: Room & Bored did very much seem dead in the water even if they did get a People’s Choice nomination and I loved how this whole episode pointed out how BS this awards is and how it’s all decided before the night. And while I’m on the subject of this episode, it’s another occasion where they incorporate someone from another reality TV show; first it was The Amazing Race and this time it is Project Runway. So they’re skewering reality TV, while also writing a love letter of sorts to it. Valerie looks stunning in this red dress, even when it’s on back to front. What did you think about this episode and how it portrays the People’s Choice Awards?

A couple of things that probably would save Room & Bored for a second season – Juna’s level of fame (as long as she doesn’t) leave and the success of The Comeback. I would imagine they would want to keep Paulie G on as a writer (and by extension) Tom as there is a high level of conflict here which is good for The Comeback. There’s a lot of variables and it’s easy to see why a reality show about a sitcom star would be a logistical nightmare.

What are your other highlights from these final four episodes?

The Comeback ep 11 Valerie and BillyKerensa: I agree–I do think that it would maybe get another season because of Juna and The Comeback but I bet it would be done after that. I loved that episode and how it looked at the People’s Choice Awards—while I’ve never covered or been to an awards show I bet it’s probably pretty similar to how it’s portrayed there.

On the topic of reality TV, how do you think The Comeback would have fared in the reality TV landscape? Because when the show aired–The Comeback would have been on the cusp of reality TV really blowing up–as acknowledged through the EW cover and the other reality type shows that were shown at the upfronts. I kinda don’t think it would have lasted very long, what about you?

I can’t think of anymore highlights other than Valerie Cherish is our new spirit animal and I miss her terribly already. You?

The Comeback ep 13 smokingEmma: It’s hard to say how The Comeback would have fared and for every Keeping Up with the Kardashians there is a Living Lohan or Pretty Wild (I would watch more of either of these two) so like you I don’t think it would have gone beyond a second season. Hopefully Valerie wouldn’t have been too humiliated and she would have more opportunities beckoning.

One other thing I did want to address is Mickey and his big coming out. Mickey has been one of the overall highlights of the series for me and I’m glad he got a happy ending of sorts. His story is also still very relevant and while he is out to people like Valerie, it’s not a something that everyone in his life knows. On the clip package on The Comeback it infers that Mickey has a thing for Jesse so he hasn’t hidden his sexuality very well and Mickey uses the finale to come out to the world. The response is pretty much “well obviously” and yet because Mickey is a gay man he has to make a public declaration. On the one hand it’s frustrating that this happens, on the other as we saw with Ellen Page at the weekend (ed. note this was written last month) it is incredibly powerful.

The Comeback definitely deserves to sit aside the one season wonders of My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks; it’s been a joy to watch Valerie Cherish and I’m definitely going to miss her. And hey, we have a new catchphrase in our repertoire and if I ever hear “I don’t want to see that” it will be a huge reminder of this show. Can we get more Lisa Kudrow on Scandal please?

The Comeback ep 11 MickeyEmma: Woah regarding the news that this might be making an actual comeback?!?!  Any thoughts and feelings on this real chance that we’ll be getting more Aunt Sassy? And where do you think she’ll be in 2014?

Kerensa: God I hope it happens! Well, there’s no way that Room & Bored could still be running right? I feel like The Comeback would have gone in a couple ways.

1. Re-kickstarted Valerie’s sticom career and she’s having a Julia Louis-Dreyfus-esque renaissance and playing “unlikeable” women.

2. Or it’s relegated her to the dregs of reality television where she’s been a contestant on any celebrity reality show i.e. Dancing with the Stars, etc.

What do you think?

Emma: If there’s no more Room & Bored I hope this means Paulie G had bottomed out somewhere.

While I hope it’s your first suggestion, I think the second one is more likely and she’ll have done every reality show offered to her. Wherever she is I’d like to see a Valerie with some edge like the one we saw in the finale chain smoking her way through her feelings. I expect it will be quite the opposite and she’ll be putting a brave face on everything.

At the start of the series I didn’t really care about Mark, but I’d really like them to be together still. If not there better be Mickey, he’s her constant so I can’t see it any other way.

I’m so excited that this is a real possibility and here we were lamenting the loss of our spirit animal. This is one occasion where more feels like a good idea, there’s still plenty more to get from this well.

I do need to see that.

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. 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.

 

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.

 

 

Summer Rewind: The Comeback Episodes 6 and 7

22 Aug

We’re back for TV Ate My Wardrobe’s Summer Rewind with Kerensa Cadenas and we’re looking at episodes 6 and 7 of The Comeback – “Valerie Saves the Show” and “Valerie Gets a Very Special Episode.”

The Comeback ep 7 Aunt Sassy's dating clothes

Emma: It’s premiere time for Room & Bored and the numbers are not good, not good in the slightest (further adding to my theory that this is an NBC show) and Valerie puts on her most optimistic face as we have seen her to do countless times when things are not going well. Valerie attempts to keep the cast happy and when she sees that the writers are having a tough time with late-night rewrites she decides to deliver a late night cookie treat. This is another case of Valerie doing something nice, but is she just doing it for the sake of the cameras? When she delivers the cookies she stumbles upon a rather raucous scene that features Paulie G simulating anal sex with another writer who is meant to be Valerie (they are wearing an orange t-shirt on their head which makes it clear that it is Valerie). As if we didn’t have a reason to dislike Paulie G enough, they found a way to make him even viler.

This scene is discussed by Mike Schur, who wrote the episode and Comeback co-creator Michael Patrick King at a recent Variety comedy writer’s panel and it was used to emphasize how much these writers hate the actors. They also refer to the scene as the rape-cookie scene so that makes Paulie G’s role in this even more horrific, at this point each time he appears I hope that something terrible befalls him. Like really terrible.

Valerie of course tries to act like it is no big deal and that the writers are just goofing off, but you can tell the rest of the crew are horrified, including the new kinda creepy dude with the scratches on his face. The moment where Jane has to sort our Valerie’s mic pack because of a sound issue is brilliant in its level of awkward comedy and I didn’t realize how intimate this procedure can be.

Mickey is the one who can’t even close his mouth as he’s that in shock about what he has just seen and as we see in other parts of this episode Mickey isn’t the best at picking up obvious signs (his annoyance at Juna’s correct assumption is definitely something I want to discuss) – he spends so much time with Valerie and he clearly adores her that it doesn’t even factor that other people don’t feel this way. Mickey is optimistic like Valerie, but on this occasion he doesn’t try to paint a pretty picture over it.

What did you think of this set up?

Random ratings question but do you know if people still ring up to get the numbers like we see Mickey and Valerie doing? I love how celebration food can turn into comfort food after they hear how terrible their ratings are. Now I really want a giant pastry like Mickey’s.

The Comeback ep 6 shocked Mickey

Kerensa: I unsurprisingly have very similar feelings as you about the set up of this episode.

First, I want Paulie G to die all the deaths. I hate him so much. And their joke about Valerie that she walked in on was so (pardon the language) so fucking vile. And in true Valerie fashion (I think so much because of the show) keeps it mostly together in a circumstance where I think most people would be pretty upset. Like so much of what we’ve seen in this show, it’s really hard to watch Valerie to continue to take these punches thrown at her and kinda let them roll off. I’m kinda terrified that we are just waiting for an epic breakdown.

But I think that Valerie walking into that joke really just perpetuates what a boys club the writing room is and especially on Room & Bored. When we saw Valerie and Juna watching that first episode with Mark and Francesca–my first thoughts were just like “what a basic ass show.”

Where did this new creepy guy come from (who might be weirdly hot/you can’t tell with the scratches yet)? Also, did it seem like he was hitting on Valerie to you?

We have to talk more about Mickey! I agree that he’s not great at picking up obvious signs either and for the most part he seems pretty set on helping Valerie get the most out of this experience but his shock about what they saw was pretty intense. He totally adores Valerie. Could you imagine being the friend of someone going through this experience that is just so shitty?

I have no idea about the ratings! I assume that you could just get them online anymore.

The Comeback ep 6 Valerie

Emma: The online thing makes sense, I do like the idea of people having to ring up for them still.

This is the first time we’ve really seen Mickey discussing something that isn’t Valerie related and his reaction to Juna setting him up on a date with a guy is intriguing as it looks like he isn’t out yet. He instantly thinks that Valerie told Juna and can’t understand why Juna would assume that he is gay (there is some great eye acting from Lisa Kudrow here). Just because Mickey is camp and owns a disco ball doesn’t mean he’s into dudes and it made me question how my initial assumption is like Juna’s, even if in this case it is correct – the headshot that Mickey gives Valerie in the next episode is his boyfriend, right?

Another way they injected this idea of how we pigeon hole people is with Shayne and her reaction to the Valerie humiliation story. Shayne reveals that she is a Christian and won’t participate on a show associated with sex and no morals. This is perplexing to everyone as Room & Bored is a show that the PTC would definitely object to – her explanation is that she is playing a character but on The Comeback it’s the real her. To me this feels like a commentary on the double standards of some actors – what did you take away from this?

Valerie manages to BS her way out of losing Shayne on the reality show by saying that God put her on this path. It’s some A+ work from Valerie and shows that she is talented; her personable and friendly tone comes in useful. It’s hilarious how quick Shayne backs down and she is happy to reshoot so they can also get her coverage (another example highlighting the contrivance of reality TV).

As you mention, Valerie does keep rolling with the punches and I’m also wondering how long this can last. I’m so glad that the reaction from all the non-writers is one of disgust and that no one tells her to simply get on with it. Valerie is already doing this herself but at least there is a support system there. Even creepy guy (who might be hitting on her) is shocked by it all.

Now I know Paulie G is the embodiment of awful but I find Tom to be just as repulsive. Unlike Paulie G he pretends to listen but he’s just as much of an asshole and his phoniness gets worse with each episode. How do you feel about Tom?

The Comeback ep 6 Tom

Kerensa: With Mickey–do you think it’s not so much that he isn’t out is that he doesn’t want it discussed on television? Or not out to certain people? Because he seems pretty out to me, at least with Valerie (and that eye acting was great!). Maybe? I didn’t really think about it like that.

Shayne’s reaction was obviously stupid and I laughed so hard when she said that about the difference between Room & Bored and The Comeback was so so ridiculous. And I could totally see that being commentary about an actor double standard for sure. That scene when Valerie talks Shayne back into doing The Comeback was BRILLIANT.

I’m glad about that too–although how can’t it be a reaction of disgust! Although my favorite line of the episode was when Juna comes up to talk to Valerie about what happened and when at first Valerie tries to brush it off. But when that breaks and she says “They have to simulate sex because they don’t get real sex.” NAILED IT. But then she backtracks–which I guess I understand. But they more than deserved that!

Tom’s gross too. He doesn’t seem as outrightly repulsive as Paulie G certainly, but you are right that he’s just as bad if not worse by attempting to cover up his dislike of Valerie with seemingly like he gives a shit. And I think we see a lot of that in the next episode for sure.

The Comeback ep 7 urgh Paulie G

Emma: It’s totally the cameras, I’m such an idiot for not realising that. Maybe he’s not out to some of his family? I guess this could be a commentary about coming out in Hollywood and suddenly this has been thrust on Mickey. Like how straight people don’t have to declare their straight, but gay people have to reveal their sexuality to the public. I’ll be very happy when this doesn’t have to be such a big thing.

Have you got anything else to add about this episode or should we jump to the next one?

Kerensa: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too? Like maybe he’s out to close friends but not to any of his family, especially since he’s older and we don’t know a lot about his background.

I’ve got nothing else for this episode. But wow, wasn’t the next one a big Mark episode? I can’t decide if I like him or not. He seems super tense about the show and it seems like the pressure of it on his and Valerie’s relationship isn’t going well. What did you think?

The Comeback ep 7 Juna

Emma: As we’ve mentioned before with Mark he is in an awkward position when it comes Valerie’s career as this isn’t the business he is; he clearly wants to support his wife and her opportunity but he’s pretty awkward in how he does it. I think because of this it’s hard to become enamored by his character as he’s always holding something back, though this is probably the most natural we’ve seen him so far (thanks to all of those vodka and Red Bulls). I think it’s fair for Mark to be pissed off by Valerie not being there for him in his professional moment of need, particularly when she can’t go to that and instead makes the Viper Room plans. Not that this is entirely Valerie’s fault as Juna pretty much backed her into a corner on camera. This is Valerie’s big moment on Room & Bored so her desire to be fully prepared is understandable but it shows how focused she is on her work and her work alone.

There is a compromise as Valerie invites Mark and his colleagues to Juna’s gig and this is where things take a messy turn. Mark is horny and drunk so when Valerie rebuffs him he bumps and grinds with his colleague in a moment that is not appropriate considering he is married. This is another example of Valerie getting horribly embarrassed on camera and it comes after a star turn – well it’s not exactly like that but for Valerie this is an exhilarating experience as Juna gives her a shout out. The fringed leather jacket that’s from her episode on Knight Rider becomes a symbol of her moment of cool (it’s Valerie so it’s diluted cool) and as she dances in the spotlight she looks genuinely happy. That is until she sees Mark dancing and she looks incredibly sad again.

The discussion in the bedroom is hilarious and the phrase “Fucking Red Bull” is something I have muttered in the past (I stopped drinking it after a sleepless, spin filled night). Both of them are drunk and Valerie tries to explain how she hasn’t been present recently but it just sounds like incoherent chatter – like most drunk conversations. The laugh out loud moment comes from the admission that it reminds Mark of when they did coke and as soon as he says it they look at the camera. Valerie attempts her timeout trick (which holds no power anyway) so instead Mark decides to rip the camera out of the ceiling (injuring himself in the process).

What do you make of their relationship?

The Comeback ep 7 Mark pulls the camera out

Kerensa: I agree with you that it totally feels like Mark is holding back because while the red bull/vodkas (I’m with you after a Vegas trip this weekend I’m done with the Red Bull) we get a little more about who he is. Honestly, though I’m not really sure if that’s a great thing.

I really don’t understand how Mark and Valerie are even together. I can’t really see why either of them are into one another. It was totally fair for Mark to be pissed at Valerie and was a moment that really showed, in a kinda gross way, how much Valerie wants to be back in the spotlight even at the expense of her personal relationships. And when Mark starts grinding against his coworker–it is so horribly embarrassing to watch. And then on top of that, Juna’s obviously well-intentioned shout out to Valerie wearing that ridiculous coat, which was nice but when Valerie did that twirl/dance thing all the looks around her were horrifying.

Their conversation in the bedroom was pretty hilarious especially the part about how red bull reminded Mark of when they did coke. It’s super interesting watching this and deciding the moments that you (and Valerie) realize that the producers of this show would certainly include once taping is over, especially now that we are so familiar with the reality television format. I know that Valerie is trying to be super careful in regards to how she’s portrayed but I wonder if she realizes how little power she may ultimately have.

the Comeback ep 7 the leather jacket

Emma: I would love to find out how they met because as you said they make no sense as a couple. We know it was during her break from acting so maybe Mark’s job was appealing and Valerie’s former star status could be alluring.

That jacket is so bad, but it is so nice to see Valerie getting some fashion props. The Aunt Sassy dating outfits are beyond terrible (even if I have a thing for 70s attire, this was a bit too polyester). The Voguing is cute and it’s so good to see Valerie this excited but it’s going to be short lived.

The whole Aunt Sassy boyfriend set up is the writers attempt to make amends for the cookie incident in the previous episode, but as we’ve seen before the jokes about Aunt Sassy are awful and focus on her age and how she doesn’t have a regular sex life. Sassy’s love interest is called Big Dick and so the terrible innuendos are endless. There are also many beaver jokes, because of course there are.

Valerie is brought in to help with casting Big Dick and she’s not happy with how low rent the list is. Valerie wants Tom Selleck (points for the Friends connection – I actually thought he might make an appearance, instead he makes an off camera phone call) as Valerie likes to dream big, this seems like an unlikely option. She also suggests Harry Hamlin because well, that makes total sense. Unfortunately Room & Bored’s numbers won’t attract any of these names.

What did you think of Valerie at work during this episode? We also need to talk about the writers (mostly Tom) and how Paulie G makes his feelings very clear through his absence.

Random observation – Francesca is doing the Atkins diet and has a Sidekick phone. This is so perfectly 2006.

The Comeback ep 7 Francesca Sidekick

Kerensa: While we know that the whole Aunt Sassy centered episode is totally to keep Valerie quiet about what she witnessed in the writer’s room. But like you said, it’s exactly the same–it’s just a longer version of them making fun of her. These dudes are such terrible, cop out writers, right?

I actually really liked how much charge Valerie took with this episode. She knows what she deserves (which unfortunately with her fading star could be argued against) in terms of a co-star and vetoed it. I really liked that we got a little more about Valerie’s acting background especially since she mostly only talks about I’m It. She used any clout she had to try to get someone who she felt was worthy to work with. And Tom was going to do it, it seemed like.

I think getting into the writers and the retooling of the show kinda goes hand in hand. I felt so badly for Valerie when she heard that they were going to retool and that her episode wouldn’t happen. And with Paulie G’s obnoxious line about the plot of the episode: “Sex and the City meets Cocoon.” Ugh.

What are your thoughts about Tom?

And spot on about Francesca. It’s so weird seeing her on this and then watching Switched at Birth!

The Comeback ep 6 ads

Emma: I like seeing this proactive side of Valerie and I totally think that Tom would have been up for that part too. Hearing about her past work as a guest actor on shows and particularly with the director worked on I’m It!  shows that those who have previously worked with Valerie like her.

The call with Tom itself is a sweet moment that Valerie is caught up in and then she’s reminded that she kind of blew it by not having the conversation of speaker. This shows that Valerie isn’t just about doing everything for the cameras.

One thing I wanted to mention from the first episode is how they demonstrated all of the many pop up ads that cover half the screen now – Valerie’s unhappy as this is her big moment. If The Comeback aired now I’d love to see how they’d incorporate hashtags and everything else that comes with TV now.

Now to those she’s currently working with and Tom who is pretty much chickenshit, I despise Paulie G but at least he doesn’t act like he’s a good guy. Tom on the other hand is all smiles but you know that as soon as he’s out of view of the cameras he’s just as awful. Am I being too harsh? Is Tom actually a good guy who just happens to have the worst writing partner?

Oh and I really need to watch Switched at Birth, don’t I?

The Comeback ep 6 Juna and FrancescaKerensa: Exactly! It seems like everyone who has worked with Valerie has loved working with her and is willing to do favors and work with her again.

I wonder what they’d do with hashtags and Twitter as well! What would Valerie and Mark’s couple name be? Also, do you think if Twitter was around while The Comeback aired, do you think it would have got another season?

No, I think you are right. Tom’s a total shit too. I think Valerie is in this weird frat-boy, entitled white dude environment with Room & Bored that’s just toxic and gross.

And yes, yes you do.

What did you think about Juna’s band?

Emma: I think it’s the type of show that would benefit from Twitter conversations and as there is way more TV crit it would probably be written about more than it was in 2006. It might have got a second season but would probably end up as an Enlightened/Bored to Death/How to Make it in America HBO venture with just two seasons. It’s hard to definitely say either way and a huge amount of Twitter discourse doesn’t always translate into renewal but I’d like to think it would in this case.

Juna’s band weren’t as terrible as I thought they were going to be, they kind of reminded me of Evanescence and she totally has the look down. Do you think this is where Juna’s passion really lies? She’s mentioned before that she’s not very confident in her acting ability but she is very comfortable up on stage singing. The acting gig could be her way of getting ahead with her singing career. I don’t think she’s calculating a move but maybe whoever her manager is. What did you think?

When it comes to The Viper Room I instantly think of Johnny Depp with Kate Moss or Winona Ryder on his arm, or alternatively the River Pheonix death which is decidedly more horrible (this is the first young celebrity death that I remember happening). Is The Viper Room still a thing?

Kerensa: You mentioned Francesca’s sidekick and Atkins diet as so 2006–that’s exactly how I felt about Juna’s band. And that outfit she was wearing. It was hilarious.

I don’t think The Viper Room is really a thing anymore? I’ve been once to see a friend’s band and that was like 2 years ago. But the entire time I was there I totally thought about Kate Moss being fab (and probably doing coke in the bathroom).

 

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.

 

Variety Comedy Writers Panel: Talking “The Comeback”

13 Aug

Pre-Emmy nominations saw multiple panels popping up as actors, writers and directors took time out of the hiatus to discuss their shows for a range of publications. Nominations have since been announced and the Emmys will be held next month. One panel that I missed in June comes from Variety and it’s rather timely in relation to the TV Ate My Wardrobe summer rewind.

The panel features Fred Armisen, Mindy Kaling, Mike Schur, Dan Goor and Michael Patrick King; Schur is the ultimate crossover as he has worked with the rest of the participants (on Parks and Recreation, The Office and The Comeback). As we have been watching The Comeback for the first time, I was delighted to hear Mike Schur bring up his experience of working on The Comeback with Michael Patrick King. The episode they mention is next up on our watching schedule (“Valerie Saves the Show) and they talk about the difference in tone between the writers’ room and on set. Mike Schur thinks it is much better to have actors and writers that interact in a positive way and as we have seen so far on The Comeback this isn’t the case for Valerie as the writers hate her.

It’s an engaging and lively discussion as you would expect from a group of comedy writers and it doesn’t just feel like they are just regurgitating the same old anecdotes that we have heard before.

They also discuss “The Poehler Doctrine” which is something all comedy shows should adhere to.

Summer Rewind: The Comeback Episodes 4 and 5

30 Jul

I’m back with Kerensa Cadenas to discuss The Comeback as part of TV Ate My Wardrobe’s Summer Rewind season. We’re looking at episodes 4 and 5 – “Valerie Stands up for Aunt Sassy” and “Valerie Demands Dignity.”

The Comeback ep 4 show night

Emma: The episodes dealt with two very different aspects, the first one with the show Room & Bored, gender politics and Valerie’s terrible relationship with the writers and the second looked at reality TV and what an audience wants/expects from this genre of television. They were both focused on Valerie and her position within both her shows and how her expectations don’t necessarily match reality (boom boom).

So episode 4 picks up with the Room & Bored in full production and Valerie’s relationship with Paulie G hits a new low after Valerie objects to a specific line in the script. Instead of taking Jimmy’s very good advice (which he undermines by patronizingly calling her honey) and letting the audience show that the line is terrible, Valerie lets all of her insecurities control her actions. The line is terrible and refers to a box of puppies as Korean barbecue (the line before it is equally bad as it plays on the word puppies and Juna’s ‘puppies’) and Valerie is worried that this will make her character unlikable and even worse could get the show cancelled. In the same conversation with Jimmy he informs Valerie that I’m It! didn’t get cancelled because of a badly timed Rodney King joke, but because they had a chimpanzee as a lawyer. Valerie maintains after that it was the joke and that everyone loved the chimpanzee but after seeing how quick Animal Practice was cancelled last year, I think Jimmy is probably correct.

This episode highlights how self-absorbed and unaware Valerie can be; her focus on how Aunt Sassy could be perceived as unlikable in turn could make the Valerie on the reality show look unfavorable instead, especially if it is edited in the ‘right’ way. This stems from her interactions with Gigi, the new female writer. At first Valerie has little interest in who Gigi is and dismisses her until she realizes that Gigi might be able to help her out with the line in question. Gigi is new to LA and television writing as she is a playwright from New York so when Valerie suggests some bonding time it seems like a good idea to Gigi to help out. The episode highlights the predicament for a lone female writer on a staff of guys (which still isn’t all that uncommon sadly – though from my count The Comeback bucks the trend and has 4 credited female writers to 3 credited male writers) and how the writer has all the power, not the actor.

When Valerie’s multiple attempts to get the line changed before filming the episode fails and she has to deliver the line, she does so with enthusiasm even though she hates it and the line bombs (because it’s terrible and racist). Instead of leaving the writers to come up with a suitable replacement Valerie does the one thing that she has been warned against as it might lead to “The hate show” for her character as a reaction to her interference. This scene is so hard to watch because we know that she’s not going to leave it alone and we know that whatever the writers give her will be worse. I thought they were just going to cut Valerie from the scene which would play into Valerie’s fear of becoming the hated character – Valerie explained to Mark that this is a defining line and if an audience doesn’t like her character then she will be included in less scenes until she is removed all together and then she will have nothing. This fear that drives Valerie throughout the episode (and in all the episodes really) is understandable considering she has had such a big gap between shows and this vulnerability makes me root for her, at the same time it also makes her blind to all the help and support around her and can make her seem very self absorbed.

The replacement line isn’t racist, but it is sexually deeming and takes the conflict between Valerie and Paulie G to a new level (“Here comes the hate show” Jimmy mutters). The new line not only calls Valerie old, but also makes her sound desperate. Once again Valerie shows professionalism and delivers the line with enthusiasm, but it’s her reaction after where she looks broken and utterly alone for a moment that is heartbreaking. As we saw in the upfronts episode Lisa Kudrow is so good at delivering this kind of reaction as Valerie lets the mask drop just for a second.

After Valerie has gathered herself and put the mask back on there is another difficult scene as she talks to Paulie G about what just happened. She quietly begs him to go easy on her and it’s so painful to see her plead her case in this way. Basically Paulie G is the worst and I really hope they have something awful in store for him. Valerie is clearly concerned with perception and this episode shows that her perception and reality don’t often match up. It’s frustrating to watch her like this and it’s the most I have yelled at the screen because of how oblivious she is to everything – including the empty gesture of wanting a puppy and then clearly not actually wanting one.

What did you think of this episode? Were you as frustrated with Valerie as I was?

The Comeback ep 4 puppy

Kerensa: I really liked this episode especially because I thought it had some super timely topics in it that you’ve touched on. I agree that Valerie was super frustrating in this episode and I cringed with so much embarrassment for her. That whole puppy thing felt like an even more extreme version of buying Mickey that $4000 plane ticket because the cameras were there (Imagine me saying cameras like Jenna Maroney).

Sometimes I wonder if Valerie is aware of how ridiculous she seems because you are so right in that if they edited her show in the right way she’d look like a monster. But I do think she’s aware of that especially because in this episode she mentioned likeability so much, that if we were having a drinking game, we both would have been very, very drunk. And I think it’s interesting Valerie discusses this so often–she knows that in order (at least then) in order to be female and on television, she needs to be likeable and she needs her character to be likeable not saying terrible and racist jokes.

Paulie G’s humiliation of Valerie with that joke was so awful especially since he knew she had to go along with it. And the gross thing was that everyone enjoyed it which is so depressing. Because Valerie knew that she wouldn’t be likeable with the previous joke but then joking about how she’s basically sexless makes her likeable. Ugh.

Valerie’s manipulation of Gigi was kinda gross especially how she blew her off at first when she didn’t realize who she was. But at the same time, the whole dynamic between the two showed how little power they both have and how blowhards like Paulie G. are running things. And I’m guessing that this isn’t very far off from reality in a writer’s room for a lady. Like you said, I’m hoping they have something awful in store for Paulie G.

I really like Valerie and am rooting for her but sometimes she makes it hard. Granted, we still aren’t that far into the series but I feel like I only know portions of Valerie. I don’t really feel like I know her–other than her on I’m It! (which we saw that clip of!) and this persona she’s constructed. In the next episode, I feel like a little of that peels off, but I’m wondering how real Valerie will actually get. Because I kinda have the feeling she’s terrified that the real her is super unlikeable. What do you think?

Also, we must talk about her speech about fading out…

The Comeback ep I'm It clip

Emma: Jenna Maroney will always be on my mind when someone says camera, especially in situations like this.

I’d agree with you about not really knowing who Valerie really is and this is emphasized by Mark’s bewilderment to how Valerie is behaving in regards to the original joke in the script, as to him she is acting like a completely different person. She explains that he’s never seen her when she’s been working before and I don’t think this reaction is just down to the fact that their conversation is being filmed. This neurotic response is perfectly explained in the fade away speech which could be viewed as a completely over the reaction to one joke in the script but in terms of stardom it might not be as crazy as Valerie makes it seem.

When it comes to reality TV stars the whole Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame perfectly symbolizes how quickly their cycle of stardom is. Valerie is a slightly different case because she is a marriage of being a sitcom star and now a reality star. Any of the reality shows that have celebrity in the title are examples of these whereas competitions like Idol or The Amazing Race (more on this when we discuss episode 5) and reality lifestyle shows like The Hills or Keeping up with the Kardashians create celebrity in a different way. One is about maintaining relevance/fame whereas the others are about becoming famous.

Everyone wants to feel like they matter in some way and for Valerie her career has stalled in a huge way, going from a hit show to an actress who is barely recognized. Room & Bored is her opportunity to reclaim those glory years and for her this joke could put an end to that; she’s trying to convince herself it’s because the show could get cancelled but in this fading away speech she reveals that she’s worried that it’s her character that will get the push and this in turn will be the end of The Comeback. There have been a couple of moments where the real Valerie comes through and it’s always at times of heightened emotional vulnerability – at the upfronts, when she performs the new joke and here.

I have to wonder how much, if any of this is meant to reference her experience on Friends because Phoebe was the ‘kooky/quirky’ one out of the three women and while she was never demeaned in the way Aunt Sassy was she definitely pushed to the periphery at times when it came to the bigger end of season stories (along with Joey, they generally got the C story). On the show Phoebe had a very good sex life, but in terms of promoting the show Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox were definitely more likely to grace the covers of men’s magazines so The Comeback could also be referencing how the three of them were represented in the external promotion of the show.

What did you think of the speech?

The Comeback ep 4 monitor

Kerensa: Let’s be honest, Jenna Maroney is always on our minds–well at least mine anyways.

I thought that her speech was pretty heartbreaking to watch because Valerie so desperately wants to hold on to what she had created for herself with I’m It even if that’s not realistic any longer. But at the same time you can see that underlying ruthlessness that Valerie is totally capable of to make The Comeback a hit (which we see a bit of in the next episode).

That’s super interesting regarding Friends–which I never really watched and have never particularly cared for what I did see. But that totally makes so much sense. That reminds me of the scene when Valerie slaps Jesse on the ass it felt like she was trying to sex up her image somewhat but didn’t want him to reciprocate. When he did, she did the robot so everyone would forget about it.

Do you have other thoughts on episode 4 or should we start on episode 5? Which was WOW.

The Comeback ep 4 bad line

Emma: I was pretty big into the whole Friends thing, it was one of the first really huge US shows that I watched and if I flick onto an episode and nothing else is on I’ll still gladly watch it. So I’m probably viewing it a response to her Friends career, but so far I don’t think it’s making any overt negative comments about that experience.

I thought something similar about the butt slap, it’s also another way to try as retain some of spotlight that she fears is on the younger cast.

That’s all I have on episode 4 and so let’s move on to episode 5, which as you say WOW.

It’s an episode that focuses on what reality TV is and if we had “likability” as our drinking game word for ep 4, “dignity” would be our get drunk word for this one. It’s all Valerie wants her show to have, but does it?

This is all triggered by a couple of things, first an embarrassing moment where Valerie thinks the worst thing they’ve caught is her without her lipstick on, instead it’s a videotape called “Ladies Loving Ladies 5” that the cameras have seen. This leads to Valerie trying to defend her husband having porn tape saying he only has one (he has more than one) – side note nothing dates a show more than VHS and old cell phones. Valerie wants to appeal to middle America and she wants to do it with dignity (*drink*). Porn might not be the way to do that.

There is still a question of editing especially when Jane points out “You don’t have to worry about what we’re shooting as we’re shooting everything.” Jane explains that it takes a lot of footage to make an interesting reality show which begins Valerie’s tailspin. This is made even worse when Valerie spots Entertainment Weekly’s cover asking “Is Reality TV Dying?” with sex and stunts needed to liven it up.

While I have quite a bit more to add I want to throw it back to you to find out what your thoughts are about the set up for this episode?

The Comeback ep 5 EW cover

Kerensa: The set up for this episode was so so good. Valerie’s insistence that “Ladies Loving Ladies 5” was the only porn in the house and that it was most certainly Mark’s was hilarious. Although later in the episode, I think it’s safe to assume Mark’s not watching that solo.

Valerie seeing that EW cover “Is Reality TV Dying?” sets off Valerie into a completely EPIC tailspin focused on DIGNITY. The theme of this episode.

Kudrow is a national treasure.

Do you think Valerie acted particularly dignified this episode?

The Comeback ep5 Valerie on the freeway

Emma: In some respects Valerie acts dignified in this episode, particularly when it comes to the running out of gas stunt that Charla sets up – I’ve never seen The Amazing Race so I didn’t know that Charla was a real contestant on that show but I know enough about that show that I don’t think it really matters that I didn’t have that knowledge. Charla is here to represent the veteran reality star and she knows how to appeal to an audience and go with the situations that are sometimes set up.

Valerie doesn’t have this background so she doesn’t want to play along, all she wants to do is get to her all important TV Guide interview. Which she does, but she has an epic falling over moment and it also means having to get the bus (something I thought she’d make a big deal out of and she didn’t). Valerie’s knees are all cut up but she makes it to the lunch and the critic thinks that Valerie’s dignity idea is refreshing.

Now Valerie’s main issue with Charla was that she was trying to manipulate Valerie’s show and if it had been a more thought out plan with Valerie’s input, I think she might have been more inclined to take part. This comes after that article and the dull moment shopping, where she’s trying to appeal to middle America (and features Glee’s Jayma May as the sales girl) and so I think she’s open to suggestions.

Valerie attempts to sex up her own show by wearing new satin nightwear to bed and arousing Mark, but then she stops him short and the bathroom is the only place they’ve been having sex. As we find out later in the episode the bathroom might not have visuals but we can hear everything they’re doing. So Valerie is attempting manipulation in her own way and this in turn pisses off Mark as he tells her that she “gave me blue balls for ratings.” These last two episodes have endeared me to Mark and what it means to be a less willing participant in a reality show.

You’re so spot on about Lisa Kudrow and I really need to start watching Web Therapy as it returned this week.

What do you think about Valerie’s interactions with Charla and Mark with her quest for dignity?

The Comeback ep 5 Meeting Charla

Kerensa: I never watched The Amazing Race either but I knew about this episode because one of my best friends who LOVES this show told me I had to alert him right after I watched it.

Charla’s manipulation of Valerie’s show is kinda what I imagined all reality television stars to be like. I agree that I think Valerie might have gone along with it all if she had been given some notice especially since she wants to amp up the action on her show.

That bus moment was so epic. I was glad to see that Valerie didn’t care about riding the bus either and it was hilarious when she asked the bus driver if he could hurry. I loved it when she told Charla off though.

I was so glad that the TV critic that Valerie met with thought that her concept was “refreshing.” I think it really gave Valerie the boost she needed to feel more confident in what she wants to do with the show. Because after she saw that EW cover, you could just feel the tension of her subtle manipulations to sex the show up–from the sexy nightie scene with Mark to her reluctant agreement to Charla working as her assistant. It was really nice to see Valerie get a win even if it’s a pretty small one.

However, like you mentioned with Mark and Valerie having sex in the bathroom, I think that’s a pretty big example of how oblivious Valerie is with some of the aspects of reality television. She’s super concerned with how she looks and within that constant worry I think she forgets to look at the bigger picture.

I still don’t really get the Mark thing? I do agree with you that I feel like you get to know him a bit better in this episode but I still don’t feel like I understand the dynamic of their relationship at all.

The comeback ep 5 Valerie and Mark

Emma: We need to talk about the super cringe part of this episode and Valerie’s lack of dignity. This occurs when Valerie is introduced to Charla and she’s super condescending, this is in part because she doesn’t know who Charla is (Mickey is a huge fan and he mentioned The Amazing Race in the upfronts episode so this isn’t a surprise), but also because Valerie has problems interacting with people for the cameras. This leads back to what you mention about Valerie not considering the big picture, she’s so concerned with certain aspects that other important factors pass her by.

Charla knows how to make things work for her and turns the incident in the dry cleaners into a perfect moment of TV, do you think we’ll see Valerie adapting to the reality show format to her advantage or will it always end in some kind of disaster?

With Mark I agree, as while I find his manner around the cameras to be understandable I also don’t get them as a couple. Hopefully this will get expanded upon. I would love to see his daughter again as I love how she plays up to the camera.

Quick LA question, is Montana Avenue the average persons shopping street? That’s what I got from Valerie’s attempts to appeal to middle America with that trip.

Valerie did use her catchphrase “I don’t want to see that” at the perfect moment as she discusses that porn tape. Oh and Valerie’s attempts to flag parts of the tape even when Jane and the crew isn’t there is both hilarious and pointless as we know that Valerie’s feelings probably won’t be taken into consideration when it comes to the editing.

Any other thoughts on either of these episodes?

The Comeback ep 5 reading EW

Kerensa: When Valerie first meets Charla it is SUPER uncomfortable. Although Mickey was so funny when he met her and kept calling Valerie to talk to Charla. I think Valerie can’t deal with other people on the show because she’s so terrified of being upstaged by anyone. I don’t know if I can imagine Valerie adapting to the format–I think she’s still so stuck in her fame for I’m It, she just wants to recreate that which isn’t going to happen in the same way.

I don’t think that anyone shops on Montana–I thought it was weird that she was shopping there.

Emma: Just as we were wrapping this discussion up the TCA panel for the new Anna Faris/Allison Janney sitcom Mom was going on and this tweet from Slate critic June Thomas popped up in my Twitter feed: “”You’re suddenly the aunt”–Anna Faris on how moving into one’s 30s affects actresses’ employment opportunities.” This perfectly represents what Valerie Cherish is going through with her career and shows once again that The Comeback nails its observations about both the Hollywood climate and reality TV.

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.

Summer Rewind: The Comeback Episodes 2 and 3

10 Jul

Continuing TV Ate My Wardrobe’s The Comeback Summer Rewind with Kerensa Cadenas and we’re looking at episode 2 and 3 – “Valerie Triumphs at the Upfronts” and “Valerie Bonds with the Cast.”

The Comback ep 2 with cast

Emma: In the pilot we saw that Valerie has very little star power and this theme continues with the next two as Room and Bored goes into production post pick-up. This includes a trip to New York for the upfronts and the filming of the first episode (after the pilot). I think the first surprise is how long Valerie hasn’t been on TV as her other major show I’m It was last on air in 1992 and it’s now 2004. It’s not surprising then to see that Valerie isn’t that well known or regarded but thanks to the fame she did have it has kept her in a comfortable living situation/bubble since that show ended, I wonder if we will hear about any projects she did between I’m It! and Room and Bored.

The need for this reality show to boost Valerie’s career tells us that she has faded into obscurity and The Comeback continues to navigate and mimic the world of reality TV with precision. Unlike the pilot, Valerie now appears to be savvier about the presence of the cameras and while she is still naive in some regards, she’s also not stupid. There’s a lot of saving face, particularly when the rest of the cast leave for dinner in New York without her; this is in part about reduced embarrassment in front of the cameras and also Valerie trying to make herself feel better about the situation because if she doesn’t do this she might realize just how shitty everything really is.

Valerie shows her true feelings at the upfronts in a couple of places and Lisa Kudrow (who also co-wrote this episode) does a great job of showing Valerie’s ‘everything is wonderful’ face disappear for a few seconds – one is when she notices that the cast has left without her, another is when the disgusting Paulie G shoots her with a finger gun while her personal diary cam is recording and the most heartbreaking one is when it appears as if she won’t be called out onto the upfronts stage. This is when she gets into a heated argument with the stage manager as he is already annoyed with her reality camera crew taking up space and while “I don’t want to see that” is Aunt Sassy’s catchphrase, I’ll definitely be using Valerie’s “I’ll throw the fucks around” in the future. Valerie’s done a good job of remaining professional while the cameras are on her, but I’m glad we got to see her crack as there’s only so much rejection/humiliation one person can take.

I don’t know if it’s because Friends was on NBC, but I’m totally reading the network that Room and Bored is on as NBC. The other new reality shows that they showed off at this presentation also made me think of Jack’s terrible ideas on 30 Rock when he was trying to ruin the network (also NBC) including a newlywed game that involves couples hitting each other with shovels and the hunt for America’s next porn star.

What did you think about Valerie’s brief meltdown and the upfront presentation?

The Comeback ep 2 Upfronts stage

Kerensa: The upfronts were so terribly, terribly uncomfortable. I hate seeing how little power Valerie has in comparison to what I think she thinks she does. But like you said I do think that Valerie realizes what she’s doing in front of the cameras for sure. Like when she has to buy that $4500 plane ticket for her friend/hairstylist. She’s desperately trying to control her image with the show–but then it makes everything look worse.

I bet Valerie has received SO many royalties for I’m It! if it was as popular as we are lead to believe. I agree that I really want to see what she did in between Room and Bored and I’m It!

That whole section where she didn’t get introduced right away at the upfronts was EPIC. Kudrow is a genius–wavering between everything is fine and “I’ll throw the fucks around” –which like you said is totally a future phrase I’ll be using as well. I’m glad we got to see her crack too–the whole episode was basically one rejection after another from the photo shoot to the missed dinner. It was hard to watch.

I’m really hoping later on we get Valerie just losing it–and I’m really hoping that it’s aimed at those FUCKING WRITERS. I HATE THEM SO MUCH.

I couldn’t decide what network either–but all those reality shows they announced were SO eerie–especially the porn star one. I felt like I had seen that before. Was that ever actually a reality show concept? I feel like it might have been. And the Newlyweds one! OMG.

I think Valerie Cherish is going to be our new spirit animal–feel accurate?

Other thoughts on the episode?

The Comeback ep 2 Uprfronts presentation

Emma: I’m finding Valerie’s relationship with Mickey to be the most intriguing so far as he is clearly cares deeply for her and I’d say that she feels the same way about him (even if the plane ticket moment was mostly for the cameras). It’s good that she has one person truly fighting her corner, even if he has little power beyond styling her hair. It’s still unclear as to how much Valerie’s husband Mark cares about Valerie or her career; he doesn’t seem that invested or that interested in her career. We meet Mark’s teenage daughter Francesca in episode 2 and there’s a hilarious discussion about which of her friends can go to dinner as Valerie thinks they need to pick an “eater” as a “non-eater” will only encourage Francesca not to eat. Francesca is very interested in the cameras and as we find out in episode 3 Valerie hasn’t had the easiest relationship with her step-daughter. Valerie thinks that Francesca is warming to her, but what she’s actually warming to is potential fame from the cameras (she’s like a Kardashian before the Kardashians were on TV). Also Mark’s ex-wife Mimi runs a 24-hour tanning salon, which is hilarious and I’m guessing is something that probably exists.

I’m hopping to episode 3 briefly as the moment when Valerie is meant to be discussing this relationship development with Francesca it’s meant to be “on the fly” but Valerie is trying to turn it in to this huge thing. This is another example of Valerie attempting to work the narrative in her favor – she wants a personal diary moment but she’s reminded that she has to actually drive Francesca to school by the crew so there isn’t enough time. When they get to the school another reality show is being filmed – Switcheroo for Nickelodeon which appears to be a parent/child role reversal. Whatever it is Francesca thinks it is dumb and it makes Valerie feel silly for wearing a pink furry gilet.

Back to the upfronts episode and the other members of the cast continue to be oblivious to everything really. Kellan Lutz really is playing the dumb bro role and his hair is really killing me. Once again none of the cast is intentionally attempting to make Valerie feel bad, they’re just very wrapped up in themselves and because they are all similar in age and mentality there is always going to be this big divide (a divide which is further emphasized in episode 3 with the location of Valerie’s dressing room). This is most evident when they’re shooting the cast promo shot and every time Valerie tries to come closer to the group she is sent back to her mark and gets told to stop pouting. Valerie is trying so hard to make her character into something more but really she is there as an obstacle and a punch line. This makes me sad and I’m totally with you when it comes to Valerie being our new spirit animal.

What did you think of the plane turbulence scene? So much cringe/awkward comedy.

I also noticed Parks and Rec showrunner Mike Schur’s name in the credits as a co-producer and upon IMDB investigating he also wrote two forthcoming episodes. I’m very excited about this.

The Comeback ep 2 Francesca

Kerensa: I agree with you on everything regarding Francesca. And the actress who plays her is my girl Bay from Switched at Birth! Mark clearly sucks–and has no idea what is going on with his daughter. Even though Valerie is very much clueless in her own way–the whole eater vs. non eater friend thing makes so much sense–especially if you’ve ever been a teenage girl.

The minute Valerie bought that fur vest (gave me major Rachel Zoe vibes) because Juna was wearing one I knew something awful would happen with it. That scene where she’s talking about connecting with Francesca while walking down the staircase–wow. So cringey. And also shows how much Valerie, I think, is really playing the game.

All the cast members are SO oblivious (which I think we get even more of in E3)–and again I think Kellan Lutz is playing Kellan Lutz. Yeah, she’s trying so hard but keeps getting so much pushback from everyone. Especially THOSE WRITERS. I hate them so much.

The plane turbulence scene was super awkward but hilarious. But I think it does go to show how badly Valerie wants this–the minute that camera was on Juna, Valerie was there. She’s a mastermind I think.

I saw Mike Schur’s name too! And I got really excited.

So, let’s talk episode three. A lot of stuff happened. What did you think?

The Comeback ep 3 cast lunch

Emma: Before I dive into episode 3 I want to ask you a question about HBO shows and their theme music as whenever I see the HBO logo before a show, no matter what it is the Sex and the City theme starts playing in my head. I know others who hear Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Sopranos and I was wondering if this happens to you too, and if so which show? I think it’s because Sex and the City was the first HBO show I watched but it’s funny that all these years later it still pops into my head.

Now to The Comeback and while it’s been clear to us as viewers that Room and Bored is all about the young cast, Valerie is explicitly told by Jimmy that this is not her show, her show is the reality one and so she should stop trying to interject with any kind of opinion. Juna is the star of Room and Bored (even if her character is as smart as Ryan Lochte) and so this is who everyone on set is concerned with – my favorite line to do with this aspect is “Don’t hit Juna in the face, she’s the money.” Valerie’s character Aunt Sassy is constantly referred to as pathetic in the script and there is no thought into her character development, they haven’t even considered whether it is a brother or a sister of Aunt Sassy’s that is the family connection with Juna.

Looking at the writers of this show it doesn’t seem like they’ve really thought about any character development beyond how they can get away with showing a naked ass. The discussion between the writers about what you can show on a drama (like NYPD Blue which got away with showing a naked ass on TV 10 years previous) is a nice insight and as I love anything that relates to television Standards & Practices this conversation stood out. Can drama get away with a lot more than comedy? Or is it more about testing the boundaries and working around them (like how they called Winston’s erection in New Girl a pogo)?

Paulie G continues to be disgusting and Valerie walks in on him getting a blowjob (and I used Valerie’s “I don’t want to see that”, because really, urgh) but I love Valerie’s response in that she laughs at the absurdity of the situation and then makes a joke about getting that girl to sign a release form/

Valerie is definitely not going to let people like Jimmy or Paulie D make her feel ostracized so she organizes a lunch for her and the cast, a lunch that isn’t a huge success as Juna doesn’t show up. Juna doesn’t really give an excuse as to why she skipped out on the group bonding but later asks Valerie for lunch, just the two of them. This almost turns into a disaster again as it looks like Juna isn’t going to show up and once again Lisa Kudrow manages to convey so much disappointment while trying to remain positive. When she tries to eat the bread and it ends up looking ungraceful I realized this is exactly how I would look on camera.

In the end Juna does show in and explains that as this is her first acting gig she’s incredibly nervous about losing her job and this seems pretty genuine, as so far Juna has been pretty oblivious to almost everything. While I think Valerie’s intentions of taking Juna under her wing come from a place of good intentions, I also think that she has spotted an opportunity to gain some power by becoming the natural ‘mother’ of the group. Her mothering is evident earlier with the first show gifts; it’s a lovely thought but also focuses on her character. I’m all for Valerie doing this as at the moment no one on that production team is showing Valerie any kind of respect.

This is also evident when they want Valerie to talk about Juna missing the cast lunch in Valerie’s one on one; Valerie doesn’t want to talk about it as she thinks that will become the narrative of the episode. This will pull the focus away from Valerie on her own show onto Juna and it also makes Valerie look like she’s the pathetic one (like Aunt Sassy) who gets stood up. This is a pretty astute reading of the situation by Valerie and as we mentioned earlier she’s definitely picking up on the ‘rules’ of reality TV. By not talking about it in this moment it will be much harder for the editors to construct a bigger narrative.

What do you think about Valerie in this episode? Also is Juna as wide-eyed and innocent as she makes out?

The Comeback ep 3 Valerie show gift

Kerensa: It totally happens to me too! It’s a toss up between Sex and the City and Six Feet Under though.

Yeah, I think you can totally see the parallels between Valerie and Aunt Sassy–which is something I wonder if the reality show is consciously trying to parrot.

I thought the writers stuff was interesting too. I would say I think that dramas can get away with more than comedies. And I don’t remember that Winston New Girl erection thing–that seems so ridiculous. I wonder if we’ll see more of the writers–or even a writer’s room situation considering the content of Room and Bored–I’m assuming it’s just a bunch of white dudes.

I loved Valerie’s reaction to seeing Paulie G getting that blow job. It was pretty much perfect. I want that to be the Valerie we get all the time.

I can’t really read Juna yet. That whole cast lunch was kinda cringey–and while I liked Valerie’s gifts to the cast–that was pretty awkward as well. But the Valerie waiting and waiting at lunch for Juna was awful to watch. And I agree that’s how I’d probably look if I was filmed in a situation like that–although I’d probably look a lot more pissed and be sending texts on my phone to friends such as “I fucking hate everyone.” But I have a couple theories about Juna–I think she could just be this flighty LA type who just doesn’t realize that she’s being terrible/thinks that being 40 minutes late is being on time. While we do learn that it’s her first acting role, she’s in a band–and she totally strikes me as being known for that/socialite/party girl situation. But I can’t decide if she really is that oblivious or not. I do want her and Valerie to be friends though.

I agree that Valerie is realizing the rules of reality television and I’m so anxious to see how she constructs this narrative for herself. And I hope it involves making the writers look terrible!

The Comeback ep 3 Valerie and Juna

Emma: Victory for Valerie over the writers is what I want to see happening in the next few episodes and I also hope this is how she ends up constructing her narrative. It’s boring to see women going up against each other out of jealousy/insecurity so I’m happy with how they are playing Juna and Valerie’s relationship and I’d really like them to be friends.

I don’t have much to add but one thing I want them to do is taking a visit up to Mickey’s storage unit in the Valley as it sounds like it’s packed with treats (and would be perfect on Storage Wars).

Kerensa: Agreed. I really hope for those same things. And I really don’t want a catfight situation between Valerie and Juna.

Can you imagine the treasures in Mickey’s storage unit? I feel like he would have a lot of Bob Mackie in there.

 

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.

 

Summer Rewind: The Comeback

25 Jun

Here at TV Ate My Wardrobe we wanted to check in with some old shows over the break and I am joined by my Mad Men chat partner in crime Kerensa Cadenas for this Summer Rewind project. First up we have HBO’s The Comeback and this discussion focuses on the pilot episode.

The-Comeback

Emma: So my knowledge of The Comeback was pretty minimal before I watched the pilot – I knew it starred Lisa Kudrow and was created by Michael Patrick King and that it features on a lot of cancelled too soon/one season wonders lists. That’s it. See I said it was minimal, I didn’t even know about the reality show format.

The first thing I did after watching it was I checked when Friends and Sex and the City ended (both 2004) and to see when Keeping up with the Kardashians premiered (2007). The Comeback aired in 2006 and it nails so much about reality show TV that has continued long after (hence why I looked up the Kardashian air date).

We meet Valerie Cherish after she has had a hit show (like Kudrow) and she has had a lull in her career since that show (it all gets pretty meta from here) and as part of her comeback she is filming a reality show at the same time as a new sitcom that she thought she was going to be the star of. Valerie has an ego like most people in this profession but l like that they don’t make her mean, she’s oblivious at times but she is never cruel. She clearly has confidence issues at times and the scene in which she is practicing the same line over and over while eating cake (filmed from the fixed camera in the kitchen, the one that she probably forgets is there and so this is Valerie at her most natural). This line becomes a moment of contention throughout the pilot; it is the reason Valerie’s character changes from career woman to dowdy aunt and it’s also the point of Valerie’s rebellion in front of the live studio audience.

The Comeback ep 1 talking head

The fixed camera in the kitchen is just one of several reality show filming techniques there is also the general film crew following her around with the producer suggesting statements for Valerie starting with “I feel…” The producer also wants Valerie to be more animated in her one on one piece with the camera – this is probably the most common set up in all reality TV where they talk about an event as if they are living in that moment, it’s also when these reality shows feel at their most false (an oxymoron I know). There is also a personal video diary which is where the person if probably meant to be at their most natural and don’t have the producer to manipulate the situation but these are also rather contrived (except for the delightful toilet sound in the background from her husband). It doesn’t really matter how authentic any of this is as the producer tells Valerie that they will edit parts.

Valerie complains that “This is supposed to be reality” and so it is clear that Valerie is unaware of how reality TV works; there are two different types of reality star those who know how it works and manipulate it to their advantage and those who trust the makers of the show and end up being portrayed in a manner they didn’t expect. I don’t think that people necessarily remain in either camp and you can move between the two. With SO many reality shows from competitions such as Top Model or Idol to family reality shows like Duck Dynasty and everything in between there is as much chance that the people involved will become a star as much as they will fade into obscurity. The idea of fame and keeping relevant is important and we see this repeated throughout The Comeback pilot.

What are your first impressions of The Comeback?

The Comback ep 1 award

Kerensa: I have actually seen the pilot episode of The Comeback several times. The first time I remember was in college and I went over to a friend’s place to drink or something and they were watching the pilot and shouting “I DON’T NEED TO SEE THAT.” And then I saw it randomly a couple other times. But I never have seen beyond that.

Watching it this time around made it SO apparent what a groundbreaking show The Comeback was when it aired. Like you mentioned it aired in a weird transitory time when it came to reality television (The Hills also started in 2006) right before it really exploded. And like you said about Valerie complaining about reality television and not understanding how it works–I think that seems super relevant for the time that she wouldn’t understand what she should have been doing. I feel like at that point maybe understanding how reality television worked, in the ways we know now, wasn’t something that would have even registered?

But like you said this idea of fame and being relevant (and especially being an aging actress) is obviously an idea that will continue to be important.

I also have some thoughts about Valerie Cherish–but I want to know what do you think of Valerie first.

The Comeback ep 1 Leno

Emma: I felt mostly sad for Valerie and her attempts to claw back the fame she once had. The “I’m It” wall of photos and its destruction later in the episode is the perfect representation of Valerie; this is her achievements and by the end of the episode they are on the floor and water damaged, she is no longer “It”. Her prize photo is a monkey shitting on her head on Leno because of how much attention it got, but it just feels embarrassing.

I’m really intrigued by her relationship with her husband as he doesn’t appear to be that invested in her latest project or her career. Valerie mentions that he isn’t in show business and this conflict is likely to be repeated, but rather than have an argument Valerie tries to put a brave face on it. This is her tactic for most situations and we see this when she is told about the character change and at her wardrobe fitting; she is good at acting fine but it’s obvious that she’s crying on the inside. I was half expecting Valerie to be a tantrum throwing diva; instead she is a people pleaser and just wants to be loved by everyone, so she’ll put on the awful ill-fitting tracksuit even though she hates it. Basically Valerie makes me feel sad at the moment.

What are your Valerie thoughts?

Ep 1 tracksuit

Kerensa: I agree with you entirely about her husband seeming completely uninterested in her career. And Valerie makes me feel really sad too. I know that this is preemptively judging a character that we don’t fully know yet but Valerie feels like a precursor to a lot of the female characters we have now–like an Amy Jellicoe, etc. Basically a messy, selfish and deeply insecure female character who just also wants to please everyone like you said. And like with Enlightened a lot of people couldn’t deal with Amy. I can’t tell whether or not she’ll fit into Emily Nussbaum’s Hummingbird Theory or not just yet.

I’m also curious how this will go throughout the season cause now I could see Valerie being pretty polarizing and right on the heels of Carrie Bradshaw–that not working well with viewers. Although of course, after rewatches, we all know that Carrie is (at least I think) a super problematic character.

What else stood out for you in the pilot? We have some weirdly familiar faces.

Ep 1 wardobe fitting

Emma: You’ve reminded me that I still need to watch Enlightened (I know) but I did find Emily Nussbaum’s Hummingbird Theory intriguing so we’ll have to keep this is mind as we watch. I do think Carrie was always problematic in SATC and even though she was the lead, I hated how everything was always about her (and it’s something I think The Carrie Diaries has avoided so far).

So many familiar faces – Kellan Lutz is playing another meathead (no surprise) and Malin Akerman plays the hot young actress Juna. As with Valerie I’m glad that they don’t make Juna mean, she’s hot and takes her clothes off in front of people (it’s HBO so I figured there would be some nudity) but it doesn’t feel false or like she’s doing it for the cameras. Juna also does the thing where she mentions how young she was when Valerie’s show was on and once again I don’t think it’s intentional (say like when Juliette Barnes does it to Rayna in the Nashville pilot which feels calculated). Juna doesn’t want to make Valerie feel bad but does so regardless.

I found the whole debate about why Valerie’s character shouldn’t have a job to be interesting, the writers clearly aren’t interested in Valerie and she’s there to serve the other characters so they don’t need to flesh out her story. Oh and the Juicy Couture mention gave me flashbacks to 2004 and mostly JLo and Britney. Do people still wear this brand?

The producer is someone I hope we see more of because she is really just focused on the job at hand; I wonder if she’ll remain this detached from Valerie as a person?

What are your other thoughts about this pilot?

Kerensa: I’m glad they don’t make Juna mean either and I hope that continues to stick. I’m liking the seeming mentor-y relationship the two could potentially have. And how trite would it be if there ended up being an All About Eve situation–beyond uninterested in that.

All I can say about Kellan Lutz is LOL.

Agreed on the Valerie thing. I feel like the writers are uninterested in her but know that this reality show will give their show leverage so they have to somewhat be vaguely interested.

People do still wear Juicy Couture and I personally think it’s one of the tragedies of our time. (JK that’s SO dramatic).

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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