Friday, August 14, 2015

Another Period / Kevin (from work)

Two off-the-beaten path comedies 
show the sitcom is alive and well

     Comedy Central has aimed at the crosshairs of the cultural zeitgeist over the past decade with Chappelle’s Show, The Daily Show (or, as we thought of it, Jon Stewart four nights a week), The Colbert Report, and South Park (creative, yes, but I can’t watch it for more than ten minutes because the animation is metaphysically awful i.e. it’s ugly and is supposed to be).  But, right now, Comedy Central is hitting the bull’s eye with Tosh.O,  which deals with a male’s curiosity and panic about homosexuality while checking out computer videos to an extent that seems endless, especially since it’s repeated interminably, Key & Peele (finally up for Emmy awards), Inside Amy Schumer and new this season Another Period.

Key and Peele
     That’s a pretty heady line up.  No other show right now says more about America’s preoccupation with race, politics, history, and the male psyche (straight and gay) than Key & Peele, though Jordan Peele does some of the best drag work on TV since Flip Wilson or Lily Tomlin.  Inside Amy Schumer works in a narrower vein for women and sexuality, though she goes very deep and usually gets raunchier the further she goes.  Another Period skewers the higher brow soap Downton Abbey and the lower brow reality soap Keeping Up with the Kardashians.   Both series have entered the popular consciousness in a way where people who have barely or never watched know more about the characters than they may initially admit.

Creators Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhorne
     Another Period (Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m.), created by Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome, both of whom are probably familiar from their guest star roles on various shows, presents the decadently rich Bellacourt family and their servants in 1905 Newport, R.I.  A large, gifted ensemble work the darkest aspects of the vast gap between the wealthy and the poor – one in which the perpetual servants are not even seen as human by their masters.  The latest episode saw hissy fit thrower Lillian (Leggero) trying to buddy up to her brother’s fiancée by hosting a seventeen-course gourmet dinner for their dogs.  When the dogs refused to eat the food, it had to be thrown out immediately.  One of the servants sneaked a bite, though he knew he could lose his job, because he was curious what ‘food’ tasted like since the servants got by on gruel.  Like much of Monty Python’s classic work, there isn’t a drop of human kindness or compassion in the Bellacourt’s world.  If two characters – whether related, married, or working alongside each other – seem to get along, it’s only for a moment and it’s an anomaly.  

Jason Ritter
     It’s touched upon various hot topics including incest (Lindhome plays the drama queen idiot savant in love with her dullard Senator brother Frederick played straight by the darling Jason Ritter), homosexuality (easier for the family to address wrongly about Frederick than the incest, while overlooking the sisters’ actual homosexual husbands), abortion, women’s liberation, prostitution, capitalist exploitation, the sociopathic arrogance of the entitled and the self-abnegating response of their slaves – I mean, servants.  Whenever I watch a period movie or show, I always wonder about kitchens and bathrooms since these have evolved over time.  While Downton Abbey (and Upstairs, Downstairs before it in 1971 – 1975) have presented culinary detail like a fetish, Another Period showed servants having to transport feces buckets after a genteel afternoon event hosted by the Bellacourts and somehow played even that for laughs.  

Noah Reid and Paige Spara
     If Another Period doesn’t sound like your proverbial cup of tea, then ABC Family offers Kevin from Work on Wednesdays at 8 p.m.  Like other shows on ABC Family, the cast is very diverse in terms of ethnicity, body type, and age, though the lighting makes everything look like the most beautiful ice cream shop or gelateria imaginable. Like other shows on ABC, it moves lightning fast and it’s easy to miss a sight gag or the significance of a line of dialogue that might reverberate later.  Scrubs (2001 – 2010) was the game changer that transformed American slapstick into this high tech, quick cut format and it reached its zenith in the brilliant, frenetic Happy Endings (2011 – 2013).  Kevin has used some clever and beautiful graphics to show what’s happening on the characters’ computers in this work place cubicle comedy.

Reid and Sedaris
     The initial hook is that Kevin (Noah Reid) leaves his job for a dream one in Italy and he writes a drunken letter telling his cubicle neighbor Audrey (Paige Spara) that he loves her.  Italy falls through and he has to beg his crazy boss played to the hilt by the wild Amy Sedaris (remember when Stephen Colbert was her co-star on their collaboration Strangers with Candy?) before facing Audrey.  A variety of interesting characters have been introduced and ABC Family smartly ran the first two episodes back to back, allowing viewers to get a firmer grasp of where the show may go.

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