As the title suggests, the second episode from Comedy Central’s newest summer show deals with divorce, using it as a springboard to explore all manner of relationships. The almost manic pace that defined the first episode— thanks to quick editing and back-and-forth dialogue—slows ever so slightly with episode two. As a result, viewers get a better, though not exactly a kinder, look at the family Bellacourt and those who serve them.
Thanks to the sharp minds behind Another Period, the show doesn’t shy away from going there. No subject is too taboo. Perhaps it helps that two female comedians known for pushing the envelope sit at the helm; were it male comedians who created a show involving incest in episode one and rape in episode two, critics might have something more barbed to say about it. That’s not to suggest that creators Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome get a pass simply because they’re women, but the show does broaden what it means to be a female comedian in the twenty-first century. Both in terms of overall content and specific female characters Another Period isn’t sticking to any sort of safe zone. This, after Netflix recently released Women Who Kill, a 2013 stand-up special showcasing four major female comics who talk about subjects that might get a male comic in trouble. For posing questions about subject matter’s comedic limitations, as well as continually asking (and challenging) who gets to say what, Another Period is much more than its premise supposes.
Despite the often goofy nature of the storytelling, Another Period offers up some first-class jokes about gender, sexuality, and the limitations placed on both. After enjoying a bout of “lawn boating,” wherein a servant pulls their boat across the lawn, Beatrice shares a rare moment of intellectualism that frightens her sibling-lover Frederick. Women who know things? Heaven forfend! To make up for her misstep she immediately points to the sun and shouts, “Look, it’s the day moon!”
Elsewhere in the Bellacourt residence, Dodo invites wealthy divorcee Pussy von Anderstein, whose husband is a coon tie tycoon and who interests Dodo as a match for son Frederick, to visit. Shortly after her arrival, Pussy ravishes (read: rapes) Garfield, who spends the rest of the episode wandering about listlessly, playing off the rape trope that so often arises in dramatic period shows. The power structure between those who live “upstairs” and those who live “downstairs” is no different in Another Period, even if that structure might be upended by gender.
Garfield’s problem with being ravished draws ire from his fellow male servants, Mr. Peepers and Hamish, who exclaim how lucky he should be to draw the lady’s attention. “If you didn’t want to be ravished, maybe you shouldn’t be wearing such an inviting little valet’s uniform,” Hamish tells Garfield. Calling attention to the ever-frustrating and increasingly problematic excuse that women are raped because they dress a certain way, the show flips that notion on its head by positioning a male character at the center of the issue, thus highlighting the absurdity ingrained in such an argument. Chair has perhaps the best line of the entire episode when she consoles Garfield and explains that the ravishing culture in which they live leads to such behavior. “It’s everywhere we look,” she says, “nickelodeons, daguerreotypes, etchings.”
For all its surface silliness, Another Period has some immensely sharp writing, providing both commentary about the often-inane aspects of twenty-first century culture while also poking fun at the early twentieth century as well. When Lillian tries to get a divorce from Victor by beating herself up (literally running into a door and therefore preempting the famous excuse) and calling the cops, she learns all about a husband’s right to keep his wife in line. Will Sasso and Jon Daly make a brief but memorable appearance as Irish cops whose line of questioning suggests that Lillian deserved the beating. “Were you menstruating at the time of the incident?” one asks her.
In only its second week Another Period is finding more sure footing, walking the line it has drawn between reality TV and period drama. The commentary it exhibits about both might at times be overshadowed by some of the goofier moments. When the show is silly for silly’s sake, it trips, but it finds a sure and clever pace when it ties those moments of silliness to something larger than itself.
Amanda Wicks is a freelance writer specializing in comedy and music. Follow her on Twitter.