Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Another Period: “Lillian’s Birthday”

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The word “manic” just might be the key to Another Period, as every episode comes across as though the show’s characters have just taken a hit or three of “romance powder” before entering a scene. That’s meant in the best way possible. Understanding and accepting this heightened cadence within Another Period makes it a funnier viewing experience, to the point where the moments when it slows down (coming down from the hit, in a way) can often feel weaker (though not necessarily “bad”—the series hasn’t hit that snag yet). But then every thing speeds up a bit, and the episode is better—and the characters funnier—for it. Last week’s episode worked more in the slower realm, and upon realizing it wasn’t written by Leggero and Lindhome, who obviously know their characters the best. It was instead written by Guy Branum, who’s written for Awkward and Totally Biased, so he’s no slouch himself. This week, however, executive producer (and the director for the show) Jeremy Konner steps up to the plate for writing duties, as someone who knows the show almost (if not just) as well as L&L.

“Lillian’s Birthday” is a great example of the power of the show’s manic nature. Lillian’s birthday shenanigans aren’t even really the crux of the episode, but the cold open has enough insanity in it to paint the perfect portrait. Lillian’s birthday being on 9/11 is just another terrible facet of her character that makes as much sense as “Hitler” being a part of her full name.

Lillian: (through crocodile tears) “I said I wanted a gold pony! And the one you gave me is only painted gold!”
Dodo: “Yes dear, we tried to dip the pony in molten gold, but it put up such a terrible fight.”
Lillian: “I can’t believe this is how I’m being treated by my own family on my— BIRTHDAY!!” (throwing and beating presents, people, and tables) “You’re ruining my life!!”
Peepers: (talking head) “Ever since Lillian first began her womanly bleeding, her birthday has been a menagerie of horrors.”

This is perhaps the worst side of Lillian (but also the most emotional), which is why we get a parallel with the “best” side (personality-wise, not in her relationship with Beatrice) of Lillian in her interactions with Charles Ponzi (Ben Stiller). It’s a bit unnerving to see a “sweeter” Lillian, but Leggero plays her more as an easy breezy version of Lillian (which would appear otherwise impossible) than as a completely different character. The cruelty Lillian would have for every one else is instead focused on Beatrice, who has been proven to hold grudges against anyone who threatens her beloved (sexual or not) family members. When, like clockwork, secretly smart Beatrice rears her head and explains the fallibility of pyramid schemes, it’s the non-violent equivalent of what she planned to do to Pussy Van Anderstein in “Divorce.” It’s almost as if she’s growing as a character, which is what it feels like when Lillian is hoodwinked by Ponzi, in the first moment of sympathy for the character.

Ben Stiller is given about the same amount of screentime here as he was in Big Time In Hollywood, FL, and he manages to make the best of what he has in both instances. Stiller’s understated performance as Ponzi fits in perfectly with the terribly rich and richly terrible crowd that litters Another Period, and his subtle despicableness works in perfect contrast to the Bellacourts’ blatant bile-spewing. Ponzi is clearly a terrible person too—that’s a prerequisite for this show, after all—but in comparison to the Bellacourts, there’s a belief (based on both his demeanor and four previous episodes of Bellacourt “villainy”) that he is above them, morally and personally. It’s to a point where it could be argued that him scamming them out of their infinite fortune could actually be a good thing, even though he is the same person drugging up a woman who loves and calling his boy-servant Taboo “one of the cuter brownies” when he’s not treating him like a dog.

As for the downstairs plot, that usually takes on the majority of the show’s surrealism (with Peepers’ Native American family and Chair’s Rocky-like training and Garfield’s ravaging) while maintaining a somewhat slower pace than the rest of the plots. But that’s not the case for this week, as Peepers finds himself out with a case of consumption. Garfield taking charge and becoming the interim head butler is a surprisingly pleasant (and vice versa) thing to see, as the meek junior butler has only been used as the wide-eyed contrast to the rest of the servants. But for the brief moment it happens, it works… Just like it works when he assumes the more typical position and poses as Dodo (with the help of a mop, the most Dodo-like cleaning instrument). Peepers secretly having feelings for Dodo (who has proven time and time again she sees him as nothing) is an interesting place to take the series, especially if it wants to become more metaphorically incestuous with its relationships. (It probably does.)

We shall see. Though, if next week’s promo is any indication, I’d say we’re in for some more laughs. (Next week’s promo is just characters laughing.)


Stray observations

  • I really hoped Ponzi and Lillian’s song was sung by Jack Black. I still have “20th century swimsuits” stuck in my head.
  • Peepers: “Why aren’t these diamonds in the pinata? You’re alseep at the switch of danger!”
  • Speaking of the pinata, I love how Beatrice uses the stick to hit servants. Frederick loves it too. Also, as soon as Lillian shot the pinata, I uttered “majestic no more.”
  • Michael Ian Black wins MVP in physical comedy this week, but Lauren Ash has a beautiful moment as Hortense “throws” herself down the stairs. Classic Hor.
  • Hortense’s plot really is simple and to the point, but I do appreciate it as a reminder of just how serialized all this chaos is. I’m disappointed we won’t have a half-black baby in the Bellacourt mansion anytime soon, but I welcome more Hortense/Chair scenes. Hortense using the “Puffing Billy” vacuum to perform her abortion, however, is a ridiculously moment that one can’t even blink an eye at coming from Another Period.
  • Beatrice: “You’re only pretty in Massachusetts!”
    Lillian: “That’s the worst thing you could ever say to a woman.” I think I agree.
  • Taboo, covered in his former master’s blood, pledging his entire life to the Bellacourt sisters (sans Hortense), only for them to say no? That’s Another Period in a nutshell.
  • Looks like the doctor is getting freaky with Albert. Not a single good person around.