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The Telegraph

Nineties TV was nasty, brutal and sexist – and Lisa Kudrow’s post-Friends Comeback proved it

What do you do when the TV show that turned you into a megastar ends? The second-stage careers of the leads of beloved late Nineties US sitcom Friends, the reunion episode of which is finally upon us, provides a slightly depressing selection of cautionary tales. Star in a succession of mediocre romcoms before watching your marital troubles become more famous than you? Struggle to overcome your addictions enough to do any work at all? Get cast in another primetime comedy years later but only with the humiliating caveat that you’ll simultaneously star in a reality show called The Comeback about your personal crusade to secure one at any cost? The first two really happened (to Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry) but the third is the fictional premise of 2005 comedy The Comeback (the same name as the fictional reality show it purported to be raw footage of) co-written by and starring Lisa Kudrow, who played the kookiest member of the Friends gang, Phoebe. The point is, like so much else in a brilliant, mercilessly satirical show, it is absolutely believable. The Comeback was the brainchild of Kudrow and Michael Patrick King, the showrunner of another hugely successful Nineties TV comedy, Sex and the City. The two met for lunch in Los Angeles in 2005, shortly after the final seasons of both Friends and Sex and the City had ended. “I don’t imagine you want to do another show,” King said to her. “The only thing I would want to do is this” replied Kudrow, before slipping deftly into character as an insecure, fame-obsessed former TV star, who she had created years earlier while training with the LA improvisational comedy troupe Groundlings. As Kudrow told the Guardian in 2019, the lunch continued for another three hours. By the end of it, they had a TV show. The Comeback, which aired on HBO later the same year, was the perfect satirical counterpoint to Nineties television nostalgia. With so-cringingly-funny-it’s-hard- to-watch precision, it laid bare the flabby underbelly of a golden decade for sitcoms (then sliced it up and served it to the viewer for breakfast).