TV review: “Another Period”

| Managing Editor

When: Tuesday, 9:30 PM
Channel: Comedy Central

This summer, while many comedy fans were distracted by Amy Schumer’s meteoric rise and Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” departure, Comedy Central quietly introduced one of the best new series of the season: the faux reality show/period piece “Another Period.” Billed as “Downton Abbey” meets “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” the show is set in Newport, R.I., in 1902, and follows the high-society Bellacourt family and its downstairs help. Creators Natasha Leggero (of stand-up and “Roast” fame) and Riki Lindhome (half of comedy-music duo Garfunkel and Oates) star as Lillian and Beatrice Bellacourt, the fame-hungry sisters at the center of this Gilded Age household. From dog dinner parties to elaborate divorce plots, “Another Period” delights in setting up outlandish situations for its high-maintenance stars. What elevates the show from an aspiring princess’s feverish dream to a fantastic work of comedy is its seemingly nonstop barrage of one-liners and sight gags. The sisters’ outrageous daily routines provide more than enough comic fodder on their own: “Chowder bath!” Leggero’s Lillian chirps in one scene, lounging in a sudsy tub with bowl and spoon in hand. “It’s my second favorite bath we take on Tuesdays.”

Though Leggero and Lindhome run the show both on and off screen, some of the series’ best performances come out of its star-studded supporting cast. One highlight is Michael Ian Black (“Wet Hot American Summer”) as the fastidious butler, Peepers, whose unwavering loyalty—bordering on unrequited love—toward Bellacourt matriarch Dodo (Paget Brewster, “Criminal Minds”) puts him in some strange situations.

Another standout performance comes courtesy of Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”) as Celine/“Chair,” a devious new servant with a dark past. The proud subservience of most of the downstairs staff makes for many of the series’ best moments, but the upstairs certainly isn’t lacking in comedic talent. Lillian and Beatrice’s closeted gay husbands, Victor and Albert (Brian Huskey and David Wain), are masters of innuendo, and the incestuous relationship—yeah, it goes there—between dim-witted twins Beatrice and Frederick (Jason Ritter) is always good for some laughs.

This hilarious cast of characters wouldn’t make much sense without the series’ unique premise and solid script. “Another Period” lightly parodies both the reality and historical genres, combining “Real Housewives”-style meltdowns and talking heads with a sense of humor that skewers the self-seriousness of period dramas. (The show is also surprisingly historically accurate—who knew cocaine wine was a real thing?) That said, the real satire comes from the show’s sly social commentary, wove into the plot in a way that’s all too relevant to today. In one particularly pointed episode, naive under-butler Garfield (Armen Weitzman) is mocked by the rest of the staff after revealing that he was “ravished”—a not-so-subtle euphemism for rape—by a female houseguest.

“If you didn’t want to be ravished, maybe you shouldn’t be wearing such an inviting little valet’s uniform,” one servant remarks to a pained Garfield. The way the show treats the situation isn’t exactly delicate, but that lack of subtlety is what drives home the episode’s criticism of victim-blaming and rape culture. “Another Period” skewers all sorts of social issues—including homophobia, racism, classism and especially sexism—in a way that’s rarely preachy and always funny. Its razor-sharp satire serves as a sad reminder that American society has changed remarkably little since 1902.

“Another Period” deftly balances this social commentary with its Kardashians-inspired, turn-of-the-century silliness, and while the scale sometimes tips too far in one direction—too much drama, too much camp— there is most certainly never a dull moment inside Bellacourt Manor. Luckily, there’s still time to get caught up on the first season before its season finale on Tuesday. I’m sure the Bellacourt sisters would love to have your attention.