TV Review: Comedy Central’s ‘Another Period’

Another Time TV Review Comedy Central
Courtesy of Comedy Central

There’s an inherent developmental disconnect in “Another Period,” a Comedy Central series that seeks to spoof programs like “Downton Abbey,” laboring to find the elusive sweet spot between a knowing send-up for those who watch such fare and a farcical take-down for those who wouldn’t be caught dead doing so. Series creators/stars Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome have certainly attracted a first-rate cast to assist with the silliness, only to settle for the below-the-belt aspects of turn-of-the-century mores. There are amusing moments, but the conceit ultimately seems better suited to a “Saturday Night Live” sketch than another series. Period.

Set in Newport, R.I. in 1902, the show focuses on the Bellacourts, a filthy rich family vastly outnumbered by their doting servants, whom they generally treat like furniture. Indeed, a sexual tryst is dragged out as the two upper-crust participants wait for their butlers and maids, silently standing watch, to gradually undress them; while Leggero’s spoiled ingenue, Lillian, rings a bell every time she wants a bite of food, opening her mouth as if this were the hospital scene in “A Clockwork Orange.”

Sister Beatrice (Lindhome, half of IFC’s “Garfunkel and Oates”) is equally pampered and vacuous, and both seem blissfully unaware that their husbands are not-so-secretly having an affair with each other. As for that attractive new maid (“Mad Men’s” Christina Hendricks), the sisters decide remembering what to call her is too difficult, and simply rename her “Chair.”

Produced by Ben Stiller’s company (which recently delivered the refreshingly inventive “Big Time In Hollywood, FL” to Comedy Central), and directed by “Drunk History’s” Jeremy Konner, “Another Period” has loaded up on talent, including Hendricks, Paget Brewster and David Koechner as the sisters’ parents, Michael Ian Black as the snooty butler, and Jason Ritter as the taboo object of Beatrice’s affection.

Everyone seems to be having a good time playing dress-up, but it’s a struggle to consistently share in the mirth, in part because so many of the gags hinge on cheap sex jokes. By itself that’s hardly an indictment in this context, but the occasional reach for something possessing a bit more flair — say, a visit from Helen Keller — usually doesn’t go much of anywhere, making this “Period” feel more crass than clever. The same pattern applies to the second episode, in which Lillian hears of something called a divorce, and begins to undergo various contortions in the hope of getting one.

It’s too bad, since there’s more promise in the idea, and scale in the execution, than many of the live-action projects Comedy Central undertakes. Yet the series, well positioned behind “Inside Amy Schumer,” more than anything plays like one of the network’s naughty cartoons.

Granted, Mel Brooks did pretty well for himself delivering spoofs of popular movie genres, but this attempt to transfer the process to TV — in much the way IFC’s “The Spoils of Babylon” satirized soapy miniseries — feels less like “Young Frankenstein,” and more like “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” Or, actually, women in ball gowns.

TV Review: Comedy Central's 'Another Period'

(Series; Comedy Central, Tues. June 23, 10:30 p.m.)

Production

Produced by Leggero Lindhome Prods., Red Hour and Konner Prods.

Crew

Executive Producers, Natasha Leggero, Riki Lindhome, Jeremy Konner, Ben Stiller, Debbie Liebling, Stuart Cornfeld, Mike Rosenstein; director, Konner; writers, Leggero, Lindhome; supervising producer, Moshe Kasher; producers, Inman Young, Jonathan Shoemaker; camera, Carl Herse; production designer, Justin Lieb; editors, Kevin Oeser, Kyle Reiter; music, Eban Schletter; casting, Melissa DeLizia. 30 MIN.

Cast

Natasha Leggero, Riki Lindhome, Lauren Ash, Michael Ian Black, Paget Brewster, Beth Dover, Brett Gelman, Christina Hendricks, Brian Huskey, David Koechner, Jason Ritter, David Wain, Armen Weitzman

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  1. Thomas says:

    Many send ups contain low brow pokes at archetypes. “Blazing Saddles”, “History of the World Part I”, & “Silent Movie”. People who never saw the original victims of the parodies can still have great laughs, while those who did will get the high brow humor. I love the show.

  2. MidwestJimmy says:

    The reason the upstairs (wealthy) characters mistreat the downstairs (servant) characters is because that’s the way it was in manor houses of the time. But I agree that the show relies on low brow humor a little too much.

  3. delprofundo says:

    uuumm its less a spoof of downton abbey and more a spoof of keeping up with the whatever style reality show set in that period. The hip hop over shots of the grounds for breaks, continual attempts to get onto various who’s who style lists in the story, juxtaposition of contemporary issues, breaking the 4th wall, all classic reality trope (mimicked to perfection). Not ringing any bells? Super rich reality stars (ie trump) lifestyles are crass and so the nature of the delivery I see as fair (tho I am a comedy nerd I suppose). I dont think you give enough credit to the depth of the satire, hard to when you misunderstood the premise I suppose.

  4. Lea Valerio says:

    Incest is severely bad taste. I will no longer watch this show.

  5. Nance Zuckerbrod says:

    Leggero drags down an otherwise excellent cast. Like having Rita Rudner on Downton Abbey.

  6. britsunited says:

    It was pretty bad. I wanted so bad to laugh, they were trying so hard! Funniest bit I saw was the servants undressing the couple for the sex scene. However, I had to turn it off before it was over because it was generally too painful to watch.

  7. stephanie wilkins says:

    this show suffers because the directing is terrible…PERIOD.

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