Sneak Peek – Comedy Central’s Another Period

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Comedy Central has really been killing it the last few years with their new programming, especially with shows that are written by women; Inside Amy Schumer is one of the best things on television and Broad City has also offered two very strong seasons of comedy. So my anticipation was a little high for the newest Comedy Central show, Another Period, written by and starring two comedians that I enjoy, Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel and Oates) and Natasha Leggero (Let’s Be Cops). Unfortunately, I think that may have been too much pressure to put on this new comedy, since while I think it shows some promise I was ultimately overwhelmed by the first episode (debuting tonight). They have assembled a mind-boggling amount of talent for this show, but at least in the pilot all the pieces haven’t quite come together.

Another Period is most obviously a parody of Downton Abbey, as it focuses on the lives of the Bellacourt family – among the richest families of Newport, Rhode Island – and their servants at the turn of the 20th century. However, with the focus on the socialite daughters Lillian and Beatrice (Leggero and Lindhome, respectively) and their spoiled and clueless behavior, the show is also a parody of reality shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Since I am familiar with both shows – I’m not necessary proud of that – and enjoy satire, Another Period should have been right down my alley.

While I did find some things amusing in the first episode, however, the jokes never seemed to quite live up to its interesting premise. There is obviously a lot of material to mine for comedy in both of the shows that it is taking aim at, but the execution was very uneven in the pilot. Things last a beat too long or the jokes aren’t diverse enough in subject matter. The joke topics aren’t very sophisticated – there are a lot of jokes about sex – and while I don’t mind that in principle, I prefer even my low-brow jokes to be smart. There is some potentially smart commentary in there, but it’s hidden behind some of the more absurd elements of the show. Perhaps the fact that a show like Keeping Up With the Kardashians is already an absurd parody means that jokes making fun of it don’t land as easily as you might expect.

Another Period isn’t lacking in talent, however; not only are Leggero and Lindhome great, but they have surround themselves with one of the most talented casts that I’ve ever seen. The rest of the Bellacourt family is played by Jason Ritter (Parenthood), Artemis Pebdani (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), David Koechner (Anchorman) and Paget Brewster (Community and The Thrilling Adventure Hour); the downstairs staff is comprised of Michael Ian Black (VH1’s I Love the…… series), Beth Dover (Childrens Hospital), Brett Gelman (Go On), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Armen Weitzman. Even if all those names aren’t familiar, I assure you that you will recognize most of the cast when you see them. There’s a lot of “Hey…that guy!” going on when you watch it. Even the guest stars are actors and actresses that you’ve seen before and almost everyone on the show has a solid comedy background. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches and I hope that as the show finds it voice and footing that it takes advantage of all the people that it has at its disposal.

Pilot episodes for comedies are notoriously hard to do well and I’m hoping that is the case with Another Period. There is a lot of setting the table to be done as the premise has to be established as well as all the characters. With a cast this large, that’s a lot to take on and the pilot does this work fairly efficiently. But all that set up doesn’t leave a lot of room for jokes or plot line; hopefully subsequent episodes will allow more time to explore these elements of the show and in the process will help the writers find the right tone and balance for the show. I may not have initially been blown away by the pilot, but I saw enough there that I’m willing to give Another Period a few more episodes to see if it figures itself out. It may ultimately be a show whose humor I just don’t connect with, but I like so many people involved with it that I am hoping that I am hoping that isn’t the case.

I do wonder if Another Period would have been a better fit with the programming of Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network; it’s apparent tendency toward the absurd and its focus on parody would have teamed well with Childrens Hospital or NTSF:SD:SUV. In fact, many people in the cast have appeared on those shows and Adult Swim has made itself a home for more offbeat and eccentric programming (see Too Many Cooks). Another Period may find an audience and do very well at Comedy Central, but tonally I think would have made more sense at Adult Swim.

Another Period may not have come out of the gate strong, but I saw enough there that interested me that I’m planning on seeing through the entire ten episode first season. I think it has an interesting concept and I have affinity for almost everyone associated with the show, so I am willing to give it more than a fair shake to see if it becomes a show that I enjoy more. Hell, I’d probably watch it even if it was terrible just to have Christina Hendricks back in my life on a regular basis (R.I.P., Mad Men). With so much comedic talent squeezed into the show, I am optimistic that Another Period will evolve into something interesting; whether that something is in keeping with my comedic sensibilities remains to be seen.

Another Period debuts tonight (Tuesday June 23rd) at 10:30 pm (ET) on Comedy Central.

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