HBO Jumps in the Way Back Machine

HBO announced recently that it is officially reviving its early 2000s reality show Project Greenlight. Executive produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, the series first aired on HBO in late 2001 (later moving to Bravo for its third season) and initially provided a single screenplay contest winner the opportunity to direct his/her own work. Subsequent seasons split the contest into two categories, writing and directing, with camera crews capturing the filmmaking process as undertaken by inexperienced filmmakers. This move seemed to stem from the challenges experienced by first season winner Pete Jones as he struggled to bring his vision to screen.


This revival news comes on the heels of similar news with HBO also announcing the return of cult favorite The Comeback. The show starred Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish, a washed-up sitcom actress making a beleaguered comeback attempt captured by a reality show. Both are interesting choices for rebooting despite mixed results on their initial runs.

Nominated for the Outstanding Reality Program Emmy for each of its seasons, Greenlight spawned three films, none of which grossed more than $1 million.

Stolen Summer (2002): gross of $140,000
The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003): gross of $280,000
Feast (2006): gross of $690,000

The Battle of Shaker Heights attracted the most attention with its relatively high profile cast of Shia LaBeouf, Elden Henson, Amy Smart, and William Sadler. The film’s accompanying season offered a fascinating look into the on-set behavior of an intense, teen-aged LaBeouf and foreshadowed later erratic behavior. No word on when the series will start accepting new entries.

The Comeback aired for only 13 episodes and received a mixed critical reaction and low ratings, perhaps due to its bizarre pairing with the male-centric Entourage. Still, it received three Emmy nominations, including a nod for Lisa Kudrow as Comedy Lead Actress, and was later named one of the ten best television shows of the 2000s by Entertainment Weekly.

Filmed as a reality show in the style of NBC’s The Office or Parks and Recreation, the show was the brainchild of Kudrow and Sex and the City’s Michael Patrick King and allowed for Kudrow to present a sometimes-unsympathetic character after her crowd-pleasing character Phoebe Buffay from mega-hit Friends. The return engagement is initially designed as a six episode offering with the possibility of returning as a full series if deemed successful.

The return of both shows is most welcomed news for fans of the unjustly canceled Enlightened who can start the Twitter campaigns now. Laura Dern is standing by. After all, if Valerie Cherish can do it…

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