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Lisa Kudrow Is Feeling the Pressure to Make Her Comeback Worth the 9-Year Wait

HBO star talks about the long road to Season 2

Lisa Kudrow's The Comeback returns this month on HBO Photo: Getty

The Comeback is coming back. Nine years after canceling Lisa Kudrow’s brilliant comedy, HBO has revived it for a second season, returning Sunday, Nov. 9 at 10 p.m. ET. The ahead-of-its-time series followed faded sitcom star Valerie Cherish (Kudrow), who is so desperate to stay famous that she agrees to star in a reality series about her comeback attempt: appearing on a generic new network sitcom called Room and Bored.

HBO canceled the show, but its fervent fanbase grew over the years, until the network, along with Comeback creators Michael Patrick King (who also worked on Sex and the City during its heyday) and Kudrow decided it was time to catch up again with Valerie 10 years later.

In addition to her Comeback return, Kudrow has pulled off something equally unlikely: simultaneously starring in series for HBO and Showtime, where Web Therapy, based on her digital series about an online therapist, just kicked off Season 4. It's rare that the bitter rivals agree to share talent. After Liev Schreiber signed on to star in Showtime’s drama Ray Donovan, HBO forced him to go unbilled in last year’s Larry David original movie, Clear History, while HBO Sports came close to dropping Schreiber as its longtime narrator.

Kudrow talked with Adweek about reviving The Comeback, how her guest-appearance on Scandal last season—playing a congresswoman with a secret—helped make it happen and what might be next for the show after its eight-episode Season 2:

Adweek: You’re now a part of this ongoing HBO/Showtime rivalry. Once Liev Schreiber got Ray Donovan, he couldn’t be credited for his HBO acting work.
I just learned that! And he’s the voice for HBO.

So how were you able to star on shows for both networks?
Both shows are nonexclusive. Web Therapy is licensed as a ready-made. HBO, that’s up in the air. Depending on which guild, [The Comeback] is Season 2, but it could also be [considered] a limited series, miniseries, event series … So I don’t know. But they’re nonexclusive, so I can do both.

You’ve said you never allowed yourself to believe that The Comeback could be revived, but were there things you saw over the years that you wished you could have addressed on the show?
No, there’s nothing I’ve seen on TV where I was went, “Damn, why aren’t we doing The Comeback?” It was being offered something and saying, “See, I wouldn’t even have to consider this if I were already occupied with The Comeback!” It was hard to consider anything else after that.

There’s so much anticipation for these new episodes after nine years. Are you feeling additional pressure because of all the lofty expectations?
Absolutely. I still feel the pressure. We wrote it, it’s shot, we’re finished, but I still feel it. My gut and Michael’s gut, which I trust, said that we did what we were supposed to do. And I know I had the fans in mind to the point where people who don’t know the show will need to catch up watching it because I don’t think what we did was for new viewers.

Do you watch reality TV?
I do! I’m a human being! I watch the [Real] Housewives. I had to watch them because the same fascination that drew me to The Comeback draws me to that show, which is: why are you doing this?

Which Housewives show is your favorite?
I used to watch all of them, and I couldn’t do that anymore, so New York, Beverly Hills and New Jersey—and I’m on the fence about this season of New Jersey. That first season, I thought, a line has been crossed with Danielle [Staub, who left after Season 2]. Because maybe it’s the way it’s edited, but truly, she doesn’t seem OK, and that’s not nice to do to a person who’s not OK. Again, I don’t know if that was really her, but it seemed like maybe she was in need of psychiatric or medical attention.

But then, you realize [New York’s] Bethenny Frankel was the most overt about it: “Oh no, there’s an agenda.” Like, “I’m not an idiot, we’re here for a reason!” I started to catch on that some of them, their marriage is on the rocks, so they’re setting themselves up to have … a career? Or something?

Yeah, and then Seasons 3 and 4 of Real Housewives suddenly become all about the product lines they’re trying to launch.
Right. Or they wrote a book about something! But they weren’t really successful.

HBO is being very vague about The Comeback’s future beyond this season.
Yeah, I don’t know what they can possibly say about that.

So you’re just as much in the dark?
Yeah. Well, there are realities, and the first is, the network needs to see what happens with it and how an audience responds to it. And then, Michael Patrick King is truly, honestly committed to a show [CBS’s 2 Broke Girls, which he created]. We did this on his hiatus. And luckily, he feels like he was at summer camp. I’ve never seen a human being work harder. So there are question marks, but we wanted to do it. We had to do it! And I’m so glad we did. And we’ll see. And if there’s supposed to be more, that would be great. I love being her and I love coming up with things for her, and so does Michael.

If HBO decides against a third season, could you take the show somewhere else?
I don’t know.

How about Showtime? You already have an in there with Web Therapy…
Right, but I think now, we would be able to have a conversation with HBO about it because they’re wonderful, and they’re really open.

What led to your doing that terrific arc on Scandal last season?
I thought the show was really fun. I was amazed watching every week, like, “You come up with a cliffhanger, and then you just justify it.” I loved watching, like, “How are you going to justify that last thing you said last week?” And I wanted to see if I could do a one-hour show. What’s that actually like? Well, it’s really hard! It’s a lot. So I learned that. And the other challenge for me was I’ve been improvising for the past four seasons on Web Therapy, and I wanted to see if my brain could still memorize lines. And luckily it can, because The Comeback was 12 pages a day!

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