In case you’ve just joined us, we’re recapping the first season of HBO’s The Comeback starring Lisa Kudrow before the new season begins Sunday, November 9. You can find episodes 1 to 6 here and episodes 7 to 12 here.
Who can say precisely when the term “fame whore” entered the vernacular, but by 2009, the Urban Dictionary had defined it as a person who’d do anything, no matter “how humiliating or demeaning, to achieve notoriety. More often than not, this involves appearing on multiple reality television shows and/or having ‘private’ sex videos ‘leaked’ ... ” What a trailblazer Our Gal Val Cherish is! She’d already agreed to film a reality show about her career reboot back in ’05. Though too uptight for a sex tape, the attention-starved actress is certainly up for anything else that could help her claw her way back to relevance. But she still loses her shit when she sees how she’s been depicted in the first episode of The Comeback.
After all, so much planning went into her big night. She’s organized a viewing party at her house: tented the backyard, ordered up a chocolate fountain, even made sure Jane, her reality producer, has gotten a personal invite. (Val thinks she and Jane have grown close over the last 20 weeks. And it’s not like she has any other friends besides Mickey, her obviously gay hairdresser who thinks his sexuality’s hidden.) She’s also bought a new outfit for her triumphant return to The Tonight Show after ten years, where she’ll promo The Comeback the night before it airs. That is, until Cameron Diaz goes long and her consolation prize is being first guest the night after her show’s debut.
Before all of that, Val has one more studio interview. Jane arrives late because she’s been interviewing Paulie G., one of Bored’s co-creators and Val’s nemesis, who she recently slugged while in a cupcake suit, because he said she had a rod up her ass (which, technically, isn’t true, it’s in her back). Paulie didn’t want to do the interview — then lawyers got involved. Val wants to know if he trashed her, but Jane doesn’t say. So Val assumes the worst, and her interview turns into a tirade in which she unleashes months’ worth of rage for the guy who’s made her life miserable. When she’s done, even delusional Mickey, who’s told Val he’s using her Comeback party as his coming-out party, knows this can’t be smart.
Party night: Jane’s M.I.A., which should be a big neon sign that Something Is Up. But Val is too busy getting the sound guy to stop smoking in the house and greeting guests. The Comeback begins and Mickey’s the first to get a crap edit: He’s ogling Bored’s black wardrobe supervisor while his voice-over says, “I love black,” surely talking about hair color. Next comes Paulie’s confessional. Say what you will about Paulie, he clearly knows the ways of reality TV and is completely complimentary toward Val — “She’s a terrific comedic actress … We’re lucky to have her." Cut to Val’s outburst — “Paulie G.’s got it out for me” — followed by her cupcake-punching-him-in-the-gut-double-vomit moment. Her narration: “Yes, I hit him, but he had it coming. He has a problem with actresses." Cut to Paulie hugging cast members Juna (Malin Ackerman) and Shayne (Kimberly Kevon Williams). Then, like a GIF, Val’s shown punching Paulie over and over and over again. (Sidebar: Would a reality show really air the most dramatic confrontation of the season in the first episode?) Val runs out of the party as we see Gigi at the chocolate fountain, shoving a chocolate-covered marshmallow into her mouth because, emotions!
With the guests gone, and thinking the cameras are, too, Val and Mark smoke aggressively while trying to digest what’s happened. “I knew they’d manipulate things,” Val says. “But they cut out everything he’s been putting me through … And they make it the crazy-actress show.” She can’t imagine showing her face on Leno — or anywhere. Mark’s just glad they didn’t use his cocaine admission. There’s still 12 weeks of mortification to come, Val reminds him.
People have different ways of reacting to humiliation and betrayal; in Val’s case it seems to re-fuse that rod up her spine. She heads to Jane’s house, inviting the cameras along to witness the confrontation. She doesn’t want to hear it when Jane tells her she didn’t edit the show. She tells her she’s gonna quit The Comeback on The Tonight Show: “I’m gonna tell my friend Jay everything, everything you deceitful people did to me.”
Jane’s at the artists' entrance when Val, Mark, Mickey, and publicist Billy Stanton (Dan Bucatinsky) arrive; Mickey immediately castigates Jane, saying she’s lucky his lover has a sense of humor. In Val’s dressing room, Jane tells her she’s sorry she’s upset but reminds her people are talking about the show. No matter, Val is resolute about quitting: “There’s a good way to get back on The Tonight Show and a bad way. This is the bad way.”
Val takes her seat next to Jay and tries to speak, but he insists on showing a clip of the cupcake-punching, which is met with audience cheers. “That’s what I call quality television,” Jay exclaims as Val tries to explain how it’s all been taken out of context. But Jay’s already brought out a barf bag with her face on it and, in an Oprah moment, tells the audience there are more under their seats. The tide of audience approval turns Val, and the next thing you know she’s doing a shadow-boxing-and-barfing routine with Jay to the delight of the crowd.
Back in her dressing room, Val takes a call from the Comeback exec who says they’re picking up the show for another season. She giddily tells Jane and hugs her. “I don’t how I’m gonna keep this up,” she says. “What am I gonna do next year, explode?” Outside, she’s mobbed by fans wanting autographs for their barf bags. Val blows everyone kisses, and all is right in her world because, hey, notoriety is better than obscurity. Right?