Another Period’s final episode last season found Newport’s society columnist Scoops LaPue murdered following his front page exposé about the Bellacourts and their piggish ways. The newest servant at the mansion, Chair/Celine (Christina Hendricks), pinned it on the lowly, brutish servant Hamish (Brett Gelman), who was blackmailing her about her affair with family patriarch Commodore (David Koechner). Ok, good, we’re all on the same page.
Now that Hamish’s trial is finally taking place it opens up the doors for an episode brimming with coarse comedy. Another Period loves skewering its upper-class characters by unveiling their ill-mannered and uncouth behavior, and this week’s episode “Trial of the Century” is absolutely jam packed with such humor. For every witty comment about “the way things were / still are” viewers are treated to ribald gags and jokes galore. There’s Beatrice’s (Riki Lindhome) fascination with execution to the point where she tries auto erotic asphyxiation at the gallows (of all places); there’s Hamish’s uncanny ability to know what a woman’s vagina looks like without having first seen it; and there’s idiot Frederick’s (Jason Ritter) turn on the legal bench after his father pays off a judge so his Senator son has the final say over what happens to (twist!) his brother Hamish.
What on earth is a writer to write about? There is almost too much going on. Among the smorgasbord of crude tomfoolery present throughout “Trial,” there’s one scene in particular—yes, even after all that—which I kept returning to. It’s brief, barely even two minutes long, but it manages to say something important about the celebrity-fascinated culture in which we live.
Lillian (Natasha Leggero) naturally wants to spin her brief relationship with Hamish (she had him fake kidnap her in order to make the news during the first season) into celebrity. Upon arriving at the courthouse, she finds there are other women vying for the press’ attention. Who better to decide what to cover than the newspaper’s very own Brussels Sheraton? A wink-wink spin on Perez Hilton, who just so happens to play the character.
Sheraton could be seen as a grandfather to the internet celebrity gossip mill that reigns supreme nowadays. Before digital technology turned clicks into dollars, Sheraton was the media man tasked with finding the most trainwreck-y of stories and publishing it. Who better to help him fill in the blanks of the desperate narrative readers so appreciate hearing about than a fame-hungry divorcee competing against five cultish women involved in a “psychic love affair” with the very man she will testify against at the trial?
Lillian tries to get Sheraton’s attention for surviving “a sexual encounter with a poor person.” But she’s no match for Hamish’s “lovers,” one of whom claims, “If this trial continues I will bathe myself in the blood of twelve pigs.” That sets off another woman in the cult, who adds, “And I will eat those twelve pigs, rub their guts on my body and set myself on fire.”
“There are so many desperate things happening here, it’s hard to decide which is the worst,” Sheraton complains to his fellow reporters. And with that declaration, he somehow signifies a maxim that has come to define present-day news cycles. The Kardashians and the Vanderpumps and anyone else whose fame comes by being famous (that strange oxymoron so present since the rise of reality TV) need media attention just as much as media producers need something to write about. The media fuels the Kardashians’ brand, which the public consumes, while that brand fuels media content, which the public once again consumes. It’s a seemingly endless cycle that didn’t begin when some voyeuristic young upstart decide to publicize people’s private lives, but which has its antecedents in a time long before video cameras and dramatic editing. Headlines, after all, needed to sell newspapers as much then as they sell clicks now.
Amanda Wicks is a freelance journalist specializing in comedy and music. Follow her on Twitter @aawicks.