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Amanda Peet returns to television

By Mike Ayers, Special to CNN
updated 6:13 PM EDT, Wed March 21, 2012
Actress Amanda Peet returns to TV tonight on the new NBC series,
Actress Amanda Peet returns to TV tonight on the new NBC series, "Bent."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peet's last full-time TV gig was the acclaimed, short-lived "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"
  • Her new show, "Bent," is a comedy
  • She hopes audiences see her as a comedic actress

(CNN) -- When we last saw actress Amanda Peet during primetime, it was on NBC's drama, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

Although that show was canceled after one season, Peet has kept busy in films mostly, booking parts in "2012" and "Gulliver's Travels." But she's also done a few one-offs in niche comedy shows like David Wains' web series "Wainy Days," comedian Demetri Martin's sketch comedy show, "Important Things With Demetri Martin," and a guest spot on "How I Met Your Mother."

This week Peet returns to primetime with "Bent," a half-hour romantic comedy from "Scrubs" vet Tad Quill. In it she plays Alex Meyers, a recently divorced lawyer whose wet-blanket approach to life is challenged by her active, surfer carpenter, Pete Riggins (played by David Walton). Rounding out the cast is Jeffrey Tambor ("Arrested Development"), JB Smoove ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") and Jesse Plemons ("Friday Night Lights).

CNN spoke with Peet from her home in Los Angeles about the "Studio 60" days, finding her footing as a comedic actress and the things that keep her up at night.

CNN: "Bent" marks a proper return to network TV for you. Has the TV landscape changed, in your opinion?

Amanda Peet: It seems like it's contracting, fewer and fewer jobs. It's hard to discern what's what, since I'm now a 40-year-old woman. Am I over the hill at the same time there's a recession? It's hard to decide what's what. There aren't many roles that are interesting if you're a 40-year-old woman, unless you're Julia Roberts or Cate Blanchett.

CNN: Looking back, what was the issue with "Studio 60"?

Peet: I think it was too expensive and there was too much anticipation. I guess all together we seemed like this arrogant monolith, but individually, none of us felt very arrogant. So it's kind of curious. Including Aaron [Sorkin]. The backlash, the vitriol. If it had been some 30- or 35-year-old new discovery instead of Aaron Sorkin, things might have been different.

CNN: In "Bent" you play an uptight, divorced lawyer. The crux of the humor rests on her being uptight. Do you think uptight people are funny?

Peet: I do. Someone says comedy is rigidity. In a romantic comedy it's usually a good idea to have people who can't stand the fact that they are attracted to each other.

CNN: Are you yourself uptight?

Peet: Yes. Probably. My husband would say yes. I try to be really hippie about things. I'm uptight in all the ways that are really important, but the things my husband and family can benefit from my uptightness, I'm completely lacking.

I don't clean, I don't make the bed. I spend my salary. I worry a lot. I just don't worry about socks on the floor. Plane flights, my children's well being, my sanity. There's this woman who walks on Wilshire Boulevard, in the same outfit. Tiny shorts, knee socks and this visor and a full face of makeup. She waves to invisible people. When I look at her, I slow down the car, I feel for her and I feel like I'm one little breathe away from that.

CNN: Do audiences think of you as a comedic actress?

Peet: I don't know. I certainly hope so. Hopefully they think that I don't blow.

CNN: Recently, you've done these one off's with niche comedy shows like David Wains' "Wainy Days," "Important Things With Demetri Martin," as well as "How I Met Your Mother." What's your strongest suit in comedy?

Peet: One needs good writings and there are many comedians that I'm friends with that aren't apart of the comedy scene; it's very hard to break in and be taken serious as a comedic actress. It just takes one good role and some eye traffic and that's hard to come by. Oftentimes you're just the setup for the joke. Like in volleyball -- set and spike. That involves some comedic skill, but it's also frustrating. On "Bent," I really feel like Tad [Quill, creator] threw me the ball. If we get a chance to go, it would get funnier and funnier. If you take "Cheers" and "Seinfeld" and watch the early shows, they're kind of awkward. It took a while for the writers and everything to gel.

"Bent" premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

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