The life and career of the late, great Joan Rivers seemed like a no-brainer for the basis of a TV series, especially with the gifted Kathryn Hahn attached to star as the iconic comedian. Fans had high hopes after the development of the Showtime series The Comeback Girl was announced back in September. Now, Variety reports that the show has been halted due to issues surrounding Rivers’ life rights.
According to the report, the producers of The Comeback Girl had not secured the full rights to Rivers’ life, which meant that this project would be unauthorized by her estate, represented by her daughter Melissa Rivers. Greg Berlanti was set to direct the pilot and executive produce the show in tandem with Warner Bros. Television and Atlas Entertainment. Hahn, recently Emmy-nominated for her turn as Agatha Harkness in WandaVision, was also set to executive produce as well as star.
Without official legal permission to use Rivers’ famous jokes or catchphrases, the producers of The Comeback Girl would face an uphill climb to gain the support of the late comedy legend’s fan community, not to mention angering Melissa Rivers. This news is a disappointment, especially as now we have a bit more information about what the show would cover. The Comeback Girl would apparently be set during the aftermath of Rivers’ short-lived run as the host of Fox’s The Late Show in 1986. At the time, Fox was a new, upstart TV network and offered a lucrative deal to Rivers to headline a late-night talk show envisioned as direct competition to NBC‘s The Tonight Show, which was hosted by Johnny Carson.
The events that unfolded in the wake of Rivers’ tenure as host of the Fox show were classic behind-the-scenes Hollywood drama, ultimately leading to tragedy. Carson, who had given Rivers her big break in the 1960s and brought her back to The Tonight Show for over 100 appearances and several guest-hosting gigs, was reportedly furious with her for joining The Late Show. The show ran into ratings problem when it launched, and ultimately Rivers was replaced after nine months. Her husband Edgar Bergman (Melissa Rivers’ father) served as a producer on The Late Show and the stress of doing the show together seriously affected their marriage. They separated after Rivers’ tenure ended, and shortly thereafter Bergman died by suicide.
If anyone truly deserves the moniker “comeback girl,” it is Joan Rivers. The story of her extraordinary life certainly deserves to be told, as she was an inspiration to generations of entertainers. We’ll see if The Comeback Girl is reactivated if the rights issues are sorted out. Stay tuned to Collider for news as it develops.