Did you see last night's premiere of HBO's The Comeback (Sundays, 9:30 pm/ET)? This certainly looks suspicious.

Valerie Cherish starred in a hit sitcom during the '90s. Lisa Kudrow starred in a hit sitcom during the '90s. Valerie Cherish is returning to TV with a new comedy. Lisa Kudrow is returning to TV with a new comedy. Valerie Cherish is seriously self-absorbed and desperately career-obsessed. Lisa Kudrow is...

"OK, there's no element of her life that collides with mine," says a smiling Kudrow, 41, taking a break from filming. "I don't worry about what she worries about. Some of the Valerie stuff comes from observations of ego-based, needy people, not just actors. People who have everything &#151 great spouse, great children, no financial needs — but can't feel alive unless they have drama."

After Friends finished its 10-year run last spring, Kudrow seemed ready to spend more time at home with husband Michel Stern and 7-year-old son Julian, as well as make feature films like the upcoming Happy Endings. Then she had lunch with writer and producer Michael Patrick King, who was still recovering from the end of his series, Sex and the City.

"Neither of us was eager to do [a series] again," Kudrow says. "We both said we'd take a break and do it again when it's right. When that happens, I'll know it. And I knew it at that lunch."

"She said, 'I want to do this character,'" King says, "and talked about a woman who thinks she's more talented and important and genuine than she is. Then she started doing the character and I started laughing. We thought, 'How about setting her in the sitcom world, since we both know that world?'"

Even though Valerie ends up on an exceedingly average comedy called Room and Bored, The Comeback also takes place in the world of reality TV. As Valerie tries to regain her 15 minutes of fame by playing a dowdy aunt to some sexy twentysomethings, a camera crew documents every (mostly wrong) move she makes for a reality show also called The Comeback.

"What reality TV has that I love is villains," King says. "Manipulated villains, with the soap-opera angle."

Adds Kudrow, a fan of America's Next Top Model and The Amazing Race: "Valerie thinks she can control this [fake reality show]."

Most of the time, though, the joke is on her. The Comeback is as sassy and snarky as Friends was cute and cuddly, a major departure for Kudrow that made this HBO series "the only way I could be back on a TV set." Her new show also offers her the chance to do something else she could never do on Friends — write some of the episodes.

"I'm not surprised she's writing. She's got a great work ethic," says former costar Matt LeBlanc, whose Friends spin-off, Joey, will be back for a second season. "My only advice to her is that the first year is hard. Don't compare it to the last year of Friends."