Written by Chris Diggins
With their 15 minutes of fame already up, Beatrice (Riki Lindhome) and Lillian (Natasha Leggero) ask Harriet Tubman (Bebe Drake) for help becoming famous again. Garfield (Armen Weitzman) is smitten with the new servant Flobelle (Alice Hunter) while the Commodore (David Koechner) seeks to restore the family finances.
Reality show parody seems like a subject that’s hopelessly out of date. We’re far from the early 2000s’ heyday of the reality show, and since then there have been countless spoofs and satires. Is there really anything left to say? Yet last year, when Another Period started airing, it made the genre seem fresh again. Connecting the extravagance and entitlement of reality show stars to that of a wealthy family in the early twentieth century led to new avenues of comedy for both, supported by fantastic performances from comedic talents like Michael Ian Black and Paget Brewster. The ten episode run of the first season was always funny, and occasionally inspired, and thankfully the series got a second season to play around with the conventions of reality shows once more.
When we left off last season, Beatrice and Lillian had been banished from Bellacourt Manor for being a constant source of scandal, a turn of events that ended up delighting them when their newfound infamy finally gave them the constant attention they always craved. But we rejoin them after their fame has already left them, and their efforts to regain it lead them to seek help from Harriet Tubman. Another Period‘s bizarre takes on historical figures were a great source of comedy last season, and Tubman, reimagined here as a self-promoting hustler, is no exception. Between that and the touchy topic of slavery getting subjected to the sisters’ characteristic ignorance and privilege, Beatrice and Lillian’s plotline is a reliable source of laughs this episode.
Back at the mansion, Michael Ian Black, whose run as devoted butler Peepers was one of the highlights of last season, once again proves how tremendously funny he is in every scene. From his stern and exacting job interviews for a new servant, to his wild gesticulations when trying to warn Dodo (Paget Brewster) of her husband the Commodore’s plans, to his ridiculous threats against the woman who sheltered the girls during their exile, it’s impossible not to laugh whenever he’s on screen. Honestly, a season two was worth it for the return of Peepers alone. The comically serious butler with a draconian sense of order and a wildly inconsistent accent is one of the most entertaining roles of Black’s long career, and it’s good to have him back.
But despite the laughs, there’s a certain lack of energy to this episode’s proceedings. Last season’s finale was clearly made with the idea that they might not get a second season in mind, and you can feel the writers scrambling to get things back in place for another round. It’s a little disappointing to see Beatrice and Lillian, who seemed poised to find their true calling in being famous for being terrible, brought back to more or less the status quo. Then again, it’s easy to see why: with their plot so geographically removed from Bellacourt Manor, the two halves of the show begin to feel at odds with each other, with very little connective tissue to create the constant sense of propulsion that made season one episodes fly by. Still, with the pieces now in place for season two (and the comedic potential of Beatrice and Lillian out dating, Dodo going renegade, and Garfield in love is, admittedly, enormous), there’s plenty of room for things to improve from here.
This isn’t the best or most brilliant episode of Another Period, but it does manage to establish all the main conflicts we can expect from this season and provide plenty of laughs along the way, and it leaves you excited to see how things develop. Hopefully it was only the awkwardness of getting the girls back to the mansion that led to the more deflated pacing, and soon we’ll have the sharp, lightning quick satire that was on display last season. And even if we don’t, it’ll still be worth coming back for Peepers.
All in all, that makes for a pretty successful premiere.
Rating: 7 out of 10