Comedy Central’s latest scripted series, Another Period, is a sort of Downton Abbey for people who loathe Downton Abbey — messy, ribald and hilarious, but also surprisingly well researched.
Series stars and longtime pals Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel and Oates), who created the show from a short film they made with the same premise, spent time in the show’s Newport, R.I., home base to get a feel for the era and setting in which their turn-of-the-century socialite sisters Lillian and Beatrice Bellacourt lived. Then they threw a big ol’ voyeur-TV bomb right in the middle of all that gentility.
“Riki and I had actually two ideas — one for a drama set in 1902 and then also a fake reality show about rich idiots set in the present,” Leggero explains of the show’s deliriously paced, confessional style. “We were out one night brainstorming and she was like, ‘Why don’t we just combine those ideas?’”
Pairing up with Drunk History co-creator Jeremy Konner to capture the specific look and tone they were after, the trio set about creating a scandalously soapy storyline peppered with the true-life oddities they encountered on their field trip to New England.
“Beauty pageant of cabbages! That’s a real thing!” Leggero crows. “The character that Paget Brewster plays [the girls’ morphine-loving mom Dodo] — there really was a woman named Dodo and she didn’t like the way her hair was looking because it was too humid or whatever, so she moved three blocks further away from the ocean for her hairstyle! She moved mansions! All these eccentric rich people — and you have to remember that there was no income tax then, so they were new money and they were living like rappers in Newport, R.I.!”
The comedy also stars Michael Ian Black as a fusty butler named Peepers, Christina Hendricks as a devious maid christened “Chair” by the dimwitted Beatrice, and Jason Ritter as Beatrice’s, er, excessively loving twin Frederick.
“We wanted people to root for it and then go, ‘Why am I ridiculous?’” Lindhome laughs. “Yes, we’re twins. But we want people to want us to get together and then feel weird about wanting that.”
Brewster reels off some of the other famous faces of the time who make an appearance — Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Gandhi, Freud, Leon Trotsky. Look for co-executive producer Ben Stiller to also drop in as Ponzi-scheme inventor Charles Ponzi, who charms Leggero’s money-hungry Lillian.
“That’s what’s so interesting is that there are all these things in the show that actually happened during the time, and it all came from them doing so much research,” Brewster grins. “I think it’s going to be the most beautifully made filthy show that’s ever existed!”
Another Period airs Tuesday nights on Comedy Central beginning June 23