HBO’s The Comeback is coming back, and we’ve got details that we need to know are being heard, Jane. What will our favorite former sitcom star Valerie Cherish be up to when the series returns after nine years off the air?
“Valerie does get in the spotlight, which is what she always reached for, but we found a unique way of telling the story about what can happen when you get something you want,” says co-creator Michael Patrick King. Earlier this year, HBO invited him and Comeback co-creator/star Lisa Kudrow to revive their canceled reality satire, which followed a faded D-lister desperate for attention. King and Kudrow contemplated the offer — to do either a one-shot movie or a limited series — and opted to stick with the original show’s DNA, bringing Valerie back for a six-episode second season set to air this fall.
The first thing to know is this: Valerie has been redeemed. In an age of embarrassment television and Real Housewives self-humiliation, the literal meat grinder Valerie put herself through in 2005 has become the norm on TV — for better or worse, says King. “Valerie addresses that in the very first episode. And the funny spin on that is, ‘Turns out I was right.'”
The new season, set in 2014, finds Valerie doing what she can to stay current — meaning she’s got a blog and a Twitter (but to what extent?) and is just as obsessed with Bravo as everyone else. And that’s not all that’s changed for her since 2005. “Nine years in every person’s life changes or deepens or sharpens them, so to see Valerie nine years later, she would have had some shift in her,” says King. “The odd thing is, we’re even in Valerie’s house — the exact location was available — so it’s almost as if everything fell right back in place. But I fully believe the nine years has added something.”
King won’t reveal Valerie’s greater arc this season — “It’s something that will test her” — but it’s decidedly different from her first season storyline, which primarily focused on Valerie snagging a supporting role as Aunt Sassy on the hot teen-aimed comedy Room and Bored. Still, you can expect to see familiar faces like Malin Akerman (Trophy Wife) and Kellan Lutz (Twilight), who will reprise their roles as then-newbie actors Juna and Chris. In a meta wink to real-world events, Akerman and Lutz’s characters will mirror the careers of their real-life counterparts.
“What we’re doing with Malin and Kellan is following their actual trajectories. When we did The Comeback, they were brand new unknowns, two puppies. And since that time, they’ve both become movie stars,” teases King. “It’s fun to do a meta reflection every now and then: Kellan Lutz as Kellan Lutz as Chris as action hero. Also, the idea that Valerie still has a relationship with Juna is so lovely to us, because we always thought that was a genuine friendship.”
In fact, King and the writers hope to have a fully fleshed-out journey for every major character. “Everybody who was part of Valerie’s life, for better or worse, is back in a way that hopefully will be believable…and odd, the way Hollywood is.”
King also emphasized that though Valerie’s found some semblance of success, she’ll still experience those same cringe-inducing misfortunes that made the original Comeback such a dour delight. “I’m cagey enough to know that Valerie has to win, and lose, and win, and win, and lose,” he says. “There’s an evolution here, so that it will be a vibrant ride and there will be many losses. But I do love her so much; I wouldn’t trot her out again just to make people sad.”
“I know Valerie is as good as ever,” declares King. “I see it every day.”