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Another Period, Ep. 1.03, “Funeral”

Another Period, Ep. 1.03, “Funeral”

Another Period, Season 1, Episode 3, “Funeral”
Written by Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome
Directed by Jeremy Konner
Airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm (ET) on Comedy Central

Physical performances reign and racial politics falter in “Funeral”, the third episode of Another Period. While the season so far has been undeniably strong, it still continues to search for its voice—no episode has hit every mark. Last week, Lillian and Beatrice paid their husbands two million dollars to fake their deaths, and this week they hold the “funeral of the season”, hoping to attract new lovers. In the servants’ quarters, another funeral takes place, as Peepers (Michael Ian Black) hears of his father’s death and must face his native heritage.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the more room Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome have to move, the better the show will be. This episode really lets both performers shine, highlighting the strength of their physical comedy. Centered on the bizarre charade of a funeral, Leggero’s movements are drunken, while Lindhome’s are childlike. These not only become the source of some exaggerated comedy, but reflect beautifully the characters they play.

As Beatrice, Leggero sways her body, moving in a laboured and exaggerated fashion. She swings her arms like a tired showgirl ready to bag a rich husband. Her movements are lethargic and deliberate and she is a calculated sex-pot with no sense of authenticity—it’s blissful. Matching her with this week’s guest star, Tim Heidecker, only amplifies the strength of her physicality, the awkward sexual cadence of Heidecker forcing Leggero to push the limits of her sex-hungry personification. The biggest laugh of the show is when Heidecker dips his finger in custard and feeds her through her mourning veil, ever so slightly missing her mouth.

Lindhome’s Beatrice has a lot less going for her than Lillian, but Lindhome certainly makes the best of it. Early in the episode, it becomes clear that Lillian cannot express grief, her facial contortions almost alien as she tries to drum up sadness for a husband who isn’t really lost. In perhaps the most overt act of physical comedy in the show so far, the funeral culminates in a strange liturgical dance performed by Lillian. It is remarkable how Lindhome can imbue her movements with the poor gracefulness of a young child. Beatrice clearly has no sense of what movements are beautiful or poetic, but achieves through naivety an incredible sincerity. This balance between the characters is what makes the show work, and with more focus on the two leads and the gender and class politics the show might thrive.

As a small aside, an element that struck me for the first time this week was the fact that Keeping Up with the Kardashians features very little of the “help”. Another Period is severely indebted to the form and content of the Kardashian reality show, yet perhaps the most pointed difference between them is that the Kardashians are presented as do-it-yourself-ers, when they’re anything but. While this might not be the place to discuss the realism and value of contemporary reality television, it does seem disingenuous to ignore the staff of people who keep the various Kardashian and Jenner households running. Is it motivated by their respect for and concern for the safety of their employees, or is it a different kind of erasure? Much of the appeal of Another Period lies in the fact that issues of class remain very real, and the absurdity of treating servants as less than human has very real resonance in how our society perceives those who work in service roles today.

It is strange that two series this year have dealt with buried native heritage. In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, viewers learn through flashbacks that Jacqueline Voorhees is actually Native American and has been hiding her past. It was a confounding element in an otherwise strong season. It seems otherworldly that Another Period revisits, with stark similarities, the same narrative idea in “Funeral”. Like in Schmidt, this episode features Peepers as a Native character who is “passing”, casting a white actor in the role. This white-washing is inherently problematic and is only made worse by how poorly the storyline is handled. While Another Period has made it abundantly clear that nothing is off-limits, the pointlessness of this particular storyline ends up feeling crass. The Native characters may not be treated as jokes, but their presence is reduced to a punchline – and not a particularly creative one either.

Race might be a taboo subject, but the makers of Another Period don’t even have to look further than their own network to see shows that handle the subject with both more grace and insight. Week after week, Key & Peele deconstruct racial politics with incredible intelligence. They are not only able to convey some powerful ideas about the state of racism in America, but are able to do it with generous laughs and incredible intelligence. Another Period can do better.