Nov 26, 2014

The Comeback Conceit

"Nothing made sense in this place.  The maid was an heiress,
 her husband talked in alliteration, the handyman kept missing
 the point of things, and then there were these three woodsmen...
 but only one of them talked."
                                                                                      --Bob Newhart

"It's a show within a show!  My real name is Tracy Morgan!"
                                                                                      --Tracy Morgan

commentary by killre

For two or three weeks now, I have seen, heard, and read a variety of Hollywood insiders and the types who report on same --critics, recappers, and other ilk who are not insiders but who spend an inordinate amount of time with their noses pressed to the window-- tell me what a great show The Comeback is.  In case you're unfamiliar, The Comeback is an HBO offering starring Lisa Kudrow.

So, I tried to watch it.  I think I might have made it almost all the way through the season premiere.  I'm not really sure.  I kind of nodded off toward the end.  I had no intention of watching episode two, but by accident I caught most of the second half.  That is my disclaimer: Everything I have to say about the show is based on about an episode and a third, maybe an episode and a half.  It seemed more than enough.

It strikes me as just so much inside baseball,
liberally spiced with emotional-torture porn.

I beg your indulgence in carrying the baseball metaphor another pint-sized paragraph.  A few years back, I read a book of baseball analysis.  Written by Bill Felber, it was called The Book on the Book.  The premise of The Comeback reminds me of that tome's title.

Here is the show's kaleidoscopic framework.  See if you can follow.  Actress Kudrow plays an actress who is the star of a reality show about an actress whose current role is that of an actress.  Not just any actress, mind you, but herself --herself the actress, not the actress Kudrow-- or at least a reasonable facsimile.  Confused yet?  Let's review.  (*deep breath*)  The Comeback is a semi-scripted show about an actress who is the star of a behind-the-scenes reality show about an actress whose current role is that of an actress --not-so-loosely based on the actress who is portraying her-- on a scripted show whose premise is a thinly disguised, behind-the-scenes look at a scripted show in which the actress once starred.

I didn't make any of that up.

In Freudian terms, it is like watching the super-ego giving the ego a hand-job while the ego goes down on the id and the id goes down on the amygdala, as recorded by the hippocampus, starring Lisa Kudrow blowing Seth Rogen.  I sincerely hope that doesn't clear it up one damned bit.

Here's why: sooner or later --and I'd prefer it sooner-- We the People need to rise up and shout in unison in the general direction of the lower left coast, "Stop it!  Just stop it already!  Okay?  We are not nearly as enamored with all your mutual mental masturbation as you think we are.  There are two simple reasons why we sift through the torrent of b-grade s pouring out of the greater L.A. basin.  One, to gain a tiny bit of insight into the polished product-- just a starter kit of insight, really.  Two, to maybe see some of you at least partially naked.  That's it.  So knock off all the other crap!"

Worse yet, the show is supposed to be a comedy and... it isn't funny.  Kudrow's character is neither likeable nor dis.  It cannot even be said she is particularly sympathetic.  More than anything, she is pitiable.  Once upon a time (I surmise), she was a throttle-wide-open jerk to almost everyone she knew-- what past generations (and certain segments of the current one) would have called a bitch on wheels: arrogant, entitled, and nowhere near as smart as she thought she was.  Somewhere along the way (I surmise), her ride came to a sudden and near-complete halt.  The hungry years that followed taught her humility, and even imparted a small portion of tenuously grasped wisdom.  (She is smarter than she was, though still not as smart as she thinks she is.  The central character's standard comeback on The Comeback is on par with, "Oh, yeah?  Well, huh, you're a, you're an even worse one.  Of those.  So, yeah.  Chew on that!"  It is the sort of line Kudrow has made a career of.)

Here is where the emotional torture part of the equation comes in.  Kudrow's character was a bad person.  Not evil, just bad.  Dislikeable.  Then she got knocked down.  It made her a better person.  Her efforts to redeem herself (and, yes, her career), however, are now rife with people kicking her while she is down.  That is the show in a nutshell: people kicking her while she's down, teaching her a lesson she has already learned.  From this, we the viewers are supposed to derive satisfaction.

Personally, I can't do it.

P.S.... Bud "Turkey" Selig must go.