Lessons Learned From Lisa Kudrow’s The Comeback and Web Therapy

Originally posted on my author site on 11/17.

I am a TV addict.

I have a spreadsheet that tells me what channel and time all the current shows I watch air. My husband set up a DVR that can record up to 4 shows at once, though that’s not always enough. I know the dates of all season and series premieres.

Yes, I know I’m a nerd but I love TV. TV is a writer’s medium, and in a way many shows are like books or book series (some shows are even based on books: Game of Thrones, The 100, the Marvel shows based on the comics, etc.). Dramas have strong story arcs, and are similar to serials. Sitcoms are often witty and full of puns.

I’ve been trying to find ways to make my TV watching productive. So far I’ve written one book (How I Met Your Media) and written for a handful of websites. For now I think I’ll keep my observations to this blog.

Aside from the writing, I enjoy seeing all the connections, and watching the careers of some actors, writers, and other creators evolve and grow.

This fall season, there are two current shows that have caught my interest as a writer. They are HBO’s The Comeback, and Showtime’s Web Therapy. Both star Lisa Kudrow, who also created them (and a few actors appear on both shows, which is always exciting to see).

Aside from Lisa Kudrow being on two different networks, portraying two somewhat similar characters (smart, self-involved and looking for success), I enjoy watching the shows because of their formats, and the story behind how they came to be on TV.

The Comeback

The Comeback is a parody of a reality show. Back then, the mockumentary style of TV was new. The first season aired in 2005—the same year The Office debuted—and then HBO canceled it.

The show is about a has-been sitcom actress named Valerie looking to restart her career. The cameras are always on her so they can produce a reality show around her comeback, and it shows the trials and tribulations of her trying to break into the sitcom world again.

Back then, the mockumentary style of TV was new. The Comeback is a show within a show, and it is both comedic and touching. It’s also very meta, and through it’s humor sheds light on certain unsavory aspects of the industry.

I didn’t hear about The Comeback until late 2013, years after it was on air when I stumbled upon it on HBO Go, but I became a fan. And I wasn’t the only one. According to Entertainment, the reason The Comeback has come back nine years later is because of “the loyal and fervent audience that found the show years later online.”

Michael Patrick King, co-creator, said, “It’s the wild wild west in television, anything’s possible. People are finding your shows nine years later. It’s very exciting what’s happening because television can exist everywhere at once.”

This echoes what many people are saying about ebooks. Now that content lives online, new audiences can find it at any time.

Web Therapy

Web Therapy is a show about Fiona Wallace, a therapist who conducts three-minute online sessions with her clients.

Much of the show is improv, and it started in 2008 as webisodes on LStudio.com before being picked up by Showtime in 2011. All the episodes were originally 3 to 15 minutes long, but Showtime has since added a few extra scenes and rounded out each episode to the more traditional half hour length.

The end of every episode also features outtakes, which are often just as funny as the scenes in the show.

What intrigues me the most is the format of the show. The show is shown all through webcams, and you can see Fiona on one side of the computer screen and whoever she is talking to on the other side.

Taking webisodes to TV reminds me a bit of indie authors who get traditional book deals. Kudrow got to experiment and try a new way to present Fiona Wallace’s story, and I’m glad Showtime kept that.

Takeaways

I think content creators (not just indie authors) could take away a lot of lessons from Lisa Kudrow. She’s not afraid to be innovative and take risks, and she has cultivated a base of raving fans (I assume Showtime picked up Web Therapy because of it’s popularity).

See? You can learn things from TV.

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