Despite its loyal fan base and critical adoration, series co-creator Michael Patrick King and co-creator and star Lisa Kudrow admit they used to have a hard time talking about their short-lived 2005 HBO satire The Comeback for many years. "[It was] too much of an emotional risk," Kudrow told reporters Thursday at HBO's Television Critics Association fall previews.
Thankfully, after years of not allowing themselves to even consider where beloved actress-turned-desperate reality star Valerie Cherish would be today, they were able to confront that question head on when the two received a call from HBO. "They asked us to come back to talk about The Comeback, and we started talking about it as if it were no longer a risk emotionally," King recalled.
Officially no longer a pipe dream, The Comeback is slated to return for six new episodes this November after nine years off the air. "The DNA is the same," King said. "The DNA that we liked about Valerie was her in front of a camera unedited. So we tried to reflect, like last time, what was happening in TV."
But while the show will be the same as it was nine years ago, the world around Valerie has changed drastically, particularly the reality TV genre that has increased exponentially beyond the Survivors and Fear Factors to the Kardashians and the many installments of the Real Housewives. "The thing that made me nervous before we started was what we did nine years ago was so tame compared to what's actually going on," Kudrow said of the genre's expansion. "When we did the first series, we thought, 'It would be so great if Valerie went into therapy with reality cameras,' And then we went, 'That's too far,'" King said. "Now it's like a go-to, that and a bikini wax on every reality show."
Although the popularity of reality shows took them by surprise, King is optimistic it works to the show's advantage. "We will not have to explain a woman who does not have financial problems putting herself in front of a camera and putting herself in harm's way. That's already in the world," King said pointing to the Real Housewives.
The huge time gap between seasons coupled with the success of reality shows has also helped attract a new following after the show's demise. "My experience has been that younger audiences, younger people already know about it and have already seen it and fully appreciate it," Kudrow said. "There's no question mark for them about what is this, and they didn't see it nine years ago."
For all the elements of the show that have stayed the same — much of the cast will be back including Malin Akerman, Kellan Lutz as well as Lance Barber's Paulie G. who plays a "big part" in this season — Valerie is "a bit more evolved" (or so she thinks) since fans last saw her. "We both sort of wanted to take it to a different place as writers," King said. "We, oddly enough, like the gap between the last season and this offering so it actually added to our grist to write with."
The biggest change is that instead of a show-within-a-show following Valerie's turn on an unsuccessful network sitcom, this time around Valerie has landed in a part in a prestigious dramedy on HBO. "This time we found a different way to get her in front of a camera because we wanted to evolve the character and also where we are in TV and what we have now is her in front of a behind-the-scenes crew rather than a reality crew," King said. "We tried to mash up everything that we see that's happening right now in television and in life and put it in a comedy."
Nevertheless, the premise of The Comeback remains the same. "This is not as much about reality as it is about taking risks and somebody's need to be in the spotlight again," King said. Added Kudrow: "Who are you to yourself and what are you presenting to yourself? I still think that's very, very, very much a part of this one."
But is this time really curtains for The Comeback? Or is there a possibility the show could come back for a third go-round? "This felt like a very full experience," said King, who is also executive producer on CBS' Two Broke Girls.
Either way, both are just happy that Valerie Cherish will get a second shot in the spotlight. "We're just really grateful that we get to pick it up again and just keep people up to date on what's happening and just to do it again," Kudrow said. "We just loved doing it so much that I think we were both just so thrilled, overjoyed. Michael is already overworked and said, 'Well, we have to. We can't not have this experience again.'"
The Comeback returns this November on HBO.