Irish American writer, producer and director Michael Patrick King, the man behind Sex and the City, is now the man behind The Comeback, the wickedly funny and brilliantly subversive HBO comedy starring Lisa Kudrow of Friends as a B-List sitcom actress trying to step back into the spotlight after a decade away.
The show is already another well deserved hit for the man whose talents include creating trends before other people can even see them. But The Comeback doesn’t trade on the Sex and the City formula; in fact it goes quite a way toward trashing its lofty legacy.
“I was just saying it’s a lemon meringue tart laced with showbiz cyanide,” King, 60, tells the Irish Voice.
“It has this sort of clear satirical view of celebrities’ desperation to stay in the spotlight – and what it does to everybody who gets near it.”
King knows what he’s talking about, having worked with the biggest stars in the business. That accounts for the show’s surprisingly candid tone.
“It does have a bit of a bite the hand that feeds you show business quality. To me it’s a naked look at something and hopefully because of Lisa Kudrow’s (who plays Valerie Cherish, the show’s narcissistic lead) comic genius and our ability to write and package it all, it’s wrapped up in a wickedly funny bow.”
What’s remarkable about The Comeback is that it’s not only where showbiz is now, it’s where we all are. Everybody has a bit of Valerie in them now, King agrees.
“Everyone’s trying to control their Facebook page. Everyone is trying to tell you who they are through their Instragam and selfies. People are rewriting their own Twitters, or they’re saying I’m so cool I had this for dinner and showing you a picture of their meal. Valerie’s message to the world is please like me and think I’m good. It’s the same everywhere. The world right now is very ego driven.”
It’s a very zeitgeisty message, but that’s exactly where King has always surfed.
“I’ve had the good fortune to ride the zeitgeist a couple of times. The voice in Sex and the City was all about being single and just under the radar,” he says.
“It was a voice that no one had heard that said maybe single people aren’t lepers. Maybe it’s okay to not have someone to go to a wedding with. I would say it was taking a societal norm and choosing something else.”
The thing that audiences respond to in The Comeback is that Valerie is eternally optimistic within this tornado of ego and garbage that is show business.
“It’s so important that you picked up on that,” says King. “She carries a $20,000 purse, she wears a huge diamond ring, she has a gorgeous house and a loving husband and yet she’s searching for all the things that she thinks she needs versus what she has. It’s what she doesn’t have that’s driving her.”
King revels he has a deep fear of not seeing what’s important in the middle of his show business life. Anxiety about losing sight of love at home, of losing sight of what he has versus what he doesn’t drove him to create the show. That’s the sort of admission that should make true Sex and the City fans take a look at his latest very different work.
“That’s why I wrote The Comeback. It’s really very personal. It’s me writing the haunted house I don’t want to be in,” he explains.
Kudrow isn’t like her character Valerie at all King confides. She has a much more detached attitude to show business.
“She’s just interested in playing a deliciously flawed character. She loves playing someone who is both a hero and fool.”
It’s part of the DNA of people in show business that they want to be recognized. For them life is all about what you have.
“Every nomination, every credit, every call back all mean something in show business – as does their absence,” says King pointedly.
It’s just that when you get on that fame and fortune hobbyhorse it can come to define your whole existence. Watch out for that says the show and this writer.