Cheryl Hines and Rachael Harris are best friends. However, Cheryl Hines and Rachael Harris — the exaggerations they play on their new Yahoo! online sitcom We Need Help — are more like best frenemies, two Hollywood divas who compete for work, kvetch over organic yogurt and fight for the attention of their shared personal assistant, Max. In episode one, despite Harris' insistence that Max help her combat an infestation of silverfish, Hines steals him away to affix her merkin.

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“They're not-that-flattering versions of ourselves,” Hines admits. “There's a bit of rivalry between us that doesn't exist.” A nervous pause. “Um … right, Rachael?”

The two comedians are determined to scrape off the glamour and vanity and expose their worst sides. So much so that when their executive producer assured them of a fantastic hair and makeup team, they panicked.

“Both Cheryl and I were, like, 'No no no! We don't want to look beautiful! We want to look real!' ” Harris says. For an on-camera hot tub scene, she even braves a bathing suit. “I was mortified that I really looked harsh, but that's the way that it would be — and it's funnier.”

Hines and Harris have earned the right to call the shots. Before Curb Your Enthusiasm and Reno 911!, respectively, made them stars, they slaved at the very bottom of the Hollywood ladder: celebrity assistants. Hines worked for Rob Reiner, Harris for Roy Scheider.

“We've both had experience living in people's homes when you weren't really part of the family, but you know them intimately — and you wish you didn't,” Harris says. “When I was watching Scheider's 2-year-old, he was in his 60s. I would tell people he took a nap at 4, and they would say, 'The baby?' and I would say, 'No, Roy.' ” Both struggling actresses swore that when they hit it big, they'd be much nicer to their help.

Harris meant it. She's currently in an agonizing stalemate with a bad housekeeper she can't bring herself to fire. “My friends and my boyfriend are, like, 'She's horrible,' and I'm, like, 'But I love her!' ” she sighs.

But Hines didn't. She's made her assistant run lines with her while Hines jogged on a treadmill with her thighs wrapped in Saran wrap. “I was hoping to sweat some inches off,” she explains, “and I trusted her not to tell people.” Another assistant, a would-be comedian named Max Loeb, was fired for taking a nap on her couch and making a fuming Hines late to the set.

Still, Hines didn't forget about hapless Max. When We Need Help needed someone to play the would-be comedian and assistant to her and Harris, she gave Max a call — and a lecture about punctuality.

“The show really does cross over into reality,” Hines says. “There are lots of storylines that we've collected from real life that are hilarious and sometimes painfully hard to watch.”

As for Max, Hines beams, “He makes a much better actor then he does an assistant.”



Sept. 9

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