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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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!
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?
Kerensa: 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 Television, Forever 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.