Three episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
In a crowded television landscape with countless channels aimed at every demographic imaginable, a show like Another Period, which returns to Comedy Central June 15, can risk getting lost. Dubbed as Keeping Up With The Kardashians meets Downton Abbey and starring a host of familiar faces, it’s easy to write the historical satire off as something we’ve all seen before. However, with a second season that tries real history on for size (sort of) while still packing each half-hour with quips and champagne, Another Period makes a sound argument for the modern television model. It’s niche TV at its best — strange, specific and bursting with talent.
The show’s second season finds Lillian (Natasha Leggero) and Beatrice (Riki Lindhome) still banished from Bellacourt Manor and roughing it in the one-level home of a distressed townswoman (Lauren Lapkus). As recent victims of 1902’s bi-monthly news cycle, the girls are desperate to regain their lost fame and set their sights on the woman stealing their attention: Harriet Tubman (BeBe Drake).
After branding lessons from Tubman, who, in this incarnation, carries the entrepreneurial prowess of Kris Jenner, the ladies test out a new approach to achieving notoriety. Meanwhile, The Commodore (David Koechner) realizes that the solution to his recent money troubles might involve getting his daughters back, and head butler Peepers (Michael Ian Black) searches for a replacement for Chair (Christina Hendricks).
As executive producers, writers, and stars, Leggero and Lindhome undoubtedly carry the show, balancing the vacant entitlement and deranged smiles of the Bellacourt heiresses with ease. In fact, the entire cast is spot on. All masters of high-status buffoonery, Koechner, Paget Brewster and Jason Ritter return to round out the Bellacourt family, supplying loud performances that rarely work this well outside of a sketch format. Beth Dover and Armen Weitzman continue to delight as servants Blanche and Garfield, making the downstairs world as much fun to inhabit as its upstairs counterpart.
If the show’s impeccable ensemble, which also includes David Wain, Brian Huskey, and Brett Gelman, isn’t enough, Another Period brings in guest stars like June Diane Raphael, Lauren Lapkus and Missi Pyle to satisfy the snobbiest of comedy nerds. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why the show’s format works. Rather than having to lock down talent for 22 episodes a season, Another Period has the freedom to recruit the funniest actors it can find, while giving them the freedom to tend to their other projects.
The benefits of the show’s niche status don’t stop there. Free from the shackles of a network sitcom, Another Period is able to sample a variety of genres without having to worry about pesky things like character development. The result is a series that looks and feels like reality television with energetic hip-hop beats and polished establishing shots that take the audience from scene to scene, but is still able to skewer the fame-hungry individuals that frequent those shows.
By placing the show in 1902, Leggero and Lindhome can comment on the absurdity and ineptitude of the wealthy and establish parallels to our modern obsession with celebrity without making the audience feel as though they’re being served a thinly-veiled fable. Plus, watching Lillian and Beatrice show off their status by carrying “walking-around gold” is much more palatable than seeing them take Snapchats of a new Rolls-Royce.
Similarly, the show functions as a perfect blend of sketch and sitcom, taking cartoonish characters often reserved for sketch shows and seeing them through new adventures each week. At its height, Another Period embodies textbook sitcom storytelling, weaving separate plot lines together to reach a climax that solves all of the characters’ problems at once.
As all good sitcoms do, the show preserves its longevity by taking its flawed players back to square one by the end of each episode, ready to make the same mistakes again next week. In a way, Another Period lends itself to this structure perfectly by dealing with characters so out of touch with reality they have both a Sherbert and Beef Room and a Sorbet and Pork Room in their elaborate mansion.
All in all, Another Period is a fresh take on familiar territory, remaining unfailingly consistent in its second season. If you like your satire speckled with dick jokes and cocaine, you’ll find a reason to laugh out loud each week. It might not be for everyone, but by harnessing its specificity and allowing its talented cast to do what they do best, Another Period proves its worth.
In its second season, Another Period demonstrates what niche TV at its height can be — strange, specific and bursting with talent.