Another Period returns to Comedy Central with its third season premiere tonight, and it couldn’t come any sooner. It’s been almost a year and a half since the last season ended, but the show’s pitch-black satire is more timely than ever. Since season two ended we’ve elected a president who brags about abusing women and treating them like objects; seen the longstanding dogwhistle racism of the right finish opening the door for blatant, unapologetic racism to slink back into mainstream discourse; and have had to prepare for a tax bill that disproportionately benefits the richest of the rich and that will basically return America to the Gilded Age. It’s like we’re living in 1900 all over again. Throw some hats and ball gowns on everybody and 2017 would look like Another Period.
If you haven’t seen Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome’s Comedy Central show before, it follows a rich family in the millionaire summer resort of Newport, Rhode Island, in the first few years of the 20th century, using their extreme wealth and the restrictive Victorian mores of the day to satirize both modern-day reality TV and how society treats women and the lower class. Leggero and Lindhome’s oblivious Bellacourt sisters see no problem with the money-focused, patriarchal world they live in, embracing their role as glorified trophies for the men in their lives. The Bellacourts treat the poor servants who live in their basement like they’re invisible at best and subhuman at worst, and blindly support both their rich father, even as he openly cheats on their mother, and their even less intelligent brother as he’s groomed for power. The one politically conscious Bellacourt, the suffragette sister Hortense, is openly mocked and hated by everybody else in the family, who treat her like an unpleasant, unattractive shrew who’ll never find a man to marry her. By adopting the regressive, discriminatory viewpoint of its turn-of-the-century setting, Another Period doesn’t just comment on the ridiculousness of our history, but spotlights how those archaic beliefs still impact our culture today.
Don’t expect any explicit references to Donald Trump in tonight’s premiere, but it’s impossible to watch it without thinking about the accelerated political dissipation of America since the show last aired, and that grotesque caricature in the White House who’s most emblematic of our decline. The arrogance, misogyny and materialism that Another Period has consistently ridiculed have rarely been embodied so perfectly by a single individual as they are by the guy who is our president. Trump feels less like a president, or even a real, living human, than he does an absurd character from this show, somehow made flesh and ensconced in the highest seat of power. In tonight’s episode the Bellacourts half-heartedly argue for women’s suffrage in front of Congress, and you could easily see Trump sitting among the bloated, disinterested old men openly dismissing the idea of equality.
If you’re worn out on political comedy, don’t worry: Another Period isn’t subtle in its satire, but, as I wrote earlier, there’s nothing explicitly about Trump or current affairs in tonight’s episode. It’s not like structural inequality between men and women is some kind of recent (or partisan) invention, or anything. At a time when politics are inescapable, though, and can be read into almost every piece of entertainment, Another Period’s over-the-top parody of society feels more vital than ever.
Another Period’s third season premieres on Comedy Central tonight at 10:30 PM.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.