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From Vikings to Manhattan to Halt and Catch Fire, it’s a hot ‘n’ heavy time for period dramas. Comedy Central’s latest, a well-timed period parody, mixes corsets and classism with some old-fashioned sex and silliness.
Fittingly titled Another Period, the show follows the prestigious Bellacourt family, a clan of wealthy fools living in Rhode Island during the Gilded Age. Comedians Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome — who also created and wrote the series together — star as self-absorbed sisters Lillian and Beatrice. While Lillian dreams of fame and divorce, Beatrice longs for the day she and her brother/secret lover (Jason Ritter) can live happily ever after.
The ensemble cast also includes David Koechner as patriarch Commodore Bellacourt; Paget Brewster as his wife, Dodo; and Lauren Ash as Hortense, the brainy sister mocked for her ambition and unseemly “face windows.” David Wain and Brian Huskey play the husbands of Lillian and Beatrice, though they’re far more interested in groping each other.
As for the “downstairs” characters — yep, this house is divided, Downton Abbey–style — many viewers will recognize Michael Ian Black, Brett Gelman and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, who plays a mysterious maid named “Chair.”
Laughs come from all angles here, though particularly memorable gags crank up the raunchiness (one scene shows the Bellacourts engaging in boring “procreation sex”) and absurdity, like when the gang gulps down too much “cocaine wine” or an anxious butler exclaims, “My god, that’s the custard bell!”
In addition to the generous ensemble, Another Period is loaded with comedy cameos. In the pilot, Tom Lennon pops up along with The Office’s Kate Flannery, who plays a frustrated Annie Sullivan to Shoshannah Stern’s version of Helen Keller. And though each actor brings his/her own steamer trunk of talent to the mix, the standout is Leggero, a confident performer who has deserved a breakout TV project for so long that it’s no wonder she decided to make one herself.
A show like this one doesn’t necessarily need to spend time on character development, but Another Period does, even throwing in a cliffhanger or two. And sure, some could find traces of social commentary in the dialogue, like when Beatrice acts dumb in front of a man or Lillian wonders, “If women can vote, who’s next? Horses? Tulips?”
But this series doesn’t want our analysis. Heck, it doesn’t even want to transport us back in time. At the end of the half-hour, Another Period just wants to make us laugh at merkin jokes and “lawn-boating” and people named Chair.
And on those counts, I’d say it does very well indeed.
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