Hypnotic 'Mr. Robot,' frantic 'Another Period'

another-period-600
Natasha Leggero (left) and Riki Lindhome poke fun at costume dramas "Another Period." (Comedy Central)

* ANOTHER PERIOD. 10:30 tonight, Comedy Central.

* MR. ROBOT. 10 p.m. tomorrow, USA.

"Another Period"

How many funny people does it take to collaborate on something truly funny?

No more than two, at least if those two are Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell, but they do have to want to be funny.

The pair's mostly straight-faced Lifetime movie, "A Deadly Adoption," pulled off what may be the biggest joke of the summer on Saturday by getting people who'd never otherwise have watched a Lifetime movie to tune in (mostly, it seemed, to complain on Twitter that what they were watching was a Lifetime movie).

"Another Period," the "reality" spoof premiering tonight on Comedy Central, after "Inside Amy Schumer," has a lot more than two funny people, and they're certainly trying, but in this case there may simply be too many.

Creators Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome star as social-climbing sisters in early 20th-century Newport, R.I., alongside a cast that includes Christina Hendricks ("Mad Men"), Michael Ian Black, Paget Brewster, Brett Gelman, Jason Ritter and many more. (Philly's Kate Flannery, of "The Office," guest-stars tonight as Helen Keller's teacher and companion, Annie Sullivan.)

The conceit that treats members of the Bellacourt family as if they were Kardashian contemporaries might work if it were given room to breathe, but "Another Period" is too intent on lampooning every period convention ever to wait even a millisecond for a laugh, resulting in a show that's more frantic than funny.

"Mr. Robot"

IT HAS BEEN 19 years since a corporate shark named Jim Profit swam briefly but memorably on Fox, but it was his face that floated into my head when I first saw the pilot for USA's "Mr. Robot."

Not that Elliot (Rami Malek, "The Pacific") is a shark (or, for that matter, "Mr. Robot"). But like the character that Marple Newtown High grad Adrian Pasdar played in "Profit," Elliot is young, brilliant, damaged and adept with both a computer and a voiceover.

And like Profit, he's a product - and reflection - of his time.

Already in an uneasy relationship with "Evil Corp," the conglomerate he's paid to protect from cyber threats, Elliot's about to embark on an even less easy one with a mysterious hacker (Christian Slater) who'd like to upend the economy with Elliot's help.

Portia Doubleday ("Her") plays his childhood friend and colleague, Angela, and Gloria Reuben is his therapist. Carly Chaikin gets out of her "Suburgatory" popular-girl zone as a hard-edged hacker.

The pilot, which premieres tomorrow on USA but has been available online for weeks, was written by Sam Esmail and directed by Niels Arden Oplev ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo").

It's creepy and wonderful and makes great use of its New York locations - particularly Coney Island - but it's Malek's almost hypnotic performance as a bundle of hurt in a hoodie that sells it, especially because I'm not sure the corporate-takedown storyline alone merited much artistry, even if it did manage to make coding look exciting.

The second episode confirms this as very much Malek's show, even as Slater's character, in one shocking moment, claims the shifting sands under Elliot's feet.

I blow hot-and-cold on voiceovers, but Elliot's is intriguing, particularly since we can't be sure he's an entirely reliable narrator.

He may or may not be delusional. Men in black may or may not be following him. "I realize I'm saying all this to an imaginary person," he says at one point. "But I created you. I didn't create this."


Email: graye@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray