I want the whole world to know my name
This is mine, I gotta get it
Gotta get it, got, got to get it
What did spoiled, trust-fund attention whores do before television—much less the Internet—was invented? That is the premise of this Reality TV Mockumentary, self-described as Downton Abbey meets Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which aired for three seasons (2015–18) on Comedy Central.
It is 1902, and the Bellacourt family are the scions of ritzy Newport, Rhode Island—which doesn't stop social-climbing sisters Lillian and Beatrice (co-creators Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome) from being as lazy, greedy, self-centered, petty, and mean-spirited as possible to each other and everyone else. Then again, the entire household is pretty much batshit insane from top to bottom, from the extended Bellacourt clan to the army of butlers and chambermaids who serve their every deranged whim.
The show pokes fun at period-accurate attitudes regarding race, class, and sexuality, and somehow Crosses the Line Twice in every single scene.
This show provides examples of:
- Abuse Mistake: Peepers assumes that Garfield being forced to do "basement bubbles" by his former orphanage's matron was a euphemism for... something unspeakable. It was not- she literally meant making bubbles in the basement by cleaning it. Garfield's sobbing while telling Peepers of this probably helped him assume so. Too bad Peepers killed her before asking for clarification.
- Abusive Parents:
- Both Lillian and Beatrice have numerous offspring—all of whom have been fobbed off on the maids to raise. Chair is horrified to discover that "putting the children to bed" translates into "feeding them morphine drops." This works on all but the eldest child, who admits "I've built up a tolerance."
- The Commodore and Dodo display this trope in spades. They rarely ever show any affection towards their children, routinely insult them, and are glad when they are not around. By the end of the first season, the Commodore has disowned Lillian and Beatrice and kicked them out of the mansion.
- The Alcoholic: Mark Twain gets drunk a lot, and so does Dodo.
- Ambiguously Jewish: In "Modern Pigs", the Commodore tells the Confession Cam "Never again will they say, ‘You won't amount to anything, Harold Bellawitcz’—I mean, Bellacourt," with an embarrassed look—which suggests that his family aren't actually blue-blood WASPs, as everyone else in Newport high society are.
- When Hamish delivers the deluded "Baby Beatrice" to Thomas Edison for appearance in pornographic films, he begs-off an extended conversation with Edison because he's got "[…]an early Shabbat." to which Edison replies "Sholem aleichem", thereby possibly indicating that he were Jewish as well, though it might have been simple politeness on his part.
- Ambiguously Bi: Three characters, all of whom also qualify as Depraved Bisexual.
- Frederick, when Mistaken for Gay calls the homosexual lifestyle "tempting". He spends an episode trying to get a former priest to have sex with him, and has male servant Garfield wash his genitals- but he is definitely attracted to women (mostly his own sister).
- Beatrice is involved in a decades-long affair with her twin brother, and has expressed an attraction to at least two other men, but she also has reciprocal oral sex with Eleanor Roosevelt, semi-regularly has Blanche get her off, and acts very flirtatiously with people of both sexes.
- The Doctor molests Albert in his coma, has an affair with Victor, and stares at Flobelle's face to get aroused. He states that if anything, he is "pansexual."
- Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?:
- Frederick is confused and dismayed when the priest (and Dodo's lover) makes it plain that he has no desire to “have his way” with Fredrick sexually, simply because the priests Fredrick had known as a child had molested him. He spends the rest of the episode trying to “seduce” the priest into assaulting him by acting childish.
- In the Pilot, Blanche mentions with embarrassment that she was the only female patient who wasn’t “ravished.” In a later episode, when Hamish asks Peepers if he (Hamish) is allowed to ravish Blanche, she outright beams, and thanks Hamish for the thought after Peepers answers in the negative.
- Arranged Marriage: Frederick and Celery are betrothed to each other, mostly so that their fathers can seal a business deal. They have no love for each other, as Frederick is still in love with Beatrice and Celery realizes that Frederick is an idiot.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Lillian's reaction to learning that Beatrice has been sold to Thomas Edison to star in a stag film.Lillian: Apparently Beatrice has been sold into white slavery—and what's worse, she's acting!
- Auto Erotica: Horse-and-buggy edition. A drunk Dodo rewards Peepers with a blow job for impersonating the Commodore at Mark Twain's party. The next day, she has no memory of the event, merely vowing never to drink absinthe again.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: After offering Beatrice some comfort and advice, Hortense suggests that the two of them spend more time together, and the two of them share a giggle before Beatrice responds with one of these.Beatrice: Remember how I said that people don’t like you?Hortence: Oh, yes.Beatrice: Well, I’m one of those people. But thank you.
- Berserk Button: Don't insult Native Americans in front of Peepers.
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Bellacourts obviously count as an example.
- Black Comedy: And how. Usually centered around historical attitudes towards class, race, gender, and sexuality.
- Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: In a fit of rage, Lillian kills Mayor Cutie for stealing her limelight.
- Black Comedy Rape:
- One time, a ghost had sex with Beatrice while she was asleep. It looked like Frederick, and it smelled like Frederick, and it was solid and not translucent at all- but it wasn't a ghost, it was Frederick.
- Garfield being "ravished" by Pussy Vom Anderstein.
- Blanche returns from the asylum pregnant, claiming she and another patient fell in love, but this is just something she told herself after he "had her way with her".
- Buxom Beauty Standard: Chauncey Alistair thinks bigger is better. For this reason, he thinks Hortense is more beautiful than Lillian or Beatrice, shocking all three sisters.
- Camp Gay: Victor Schmemmerhorn-Fish and Albert Downsy. Despite being the de facto husbands of Lillian and Beatrice, respectively, they are carrying on a very visible affair with one another. No one else in the household bats an eyelash.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- "Pageant" begins with Dodo practicing her blow-dart expertise on a passing American eagle. Later, when Lillian is in danger of losing the beauty pageant to Beatrice, she uses the dart gun to sedate her sister mid-song.
- Garfield's Companion Cube "Towel" becomes this in "Doggy Dinner Party," when Chair—following attempts to seduce Garfield into giving her the key to Dodo's morphine cabinet—gets her revenge by informing Peepers that one of the household towels has gone missing. When Peepers discovers that Garfield has the missing towel, he fires the under-butler.
- Comically Missing the Point: When Frederick is (mis)diagnosed as a homosexual, he and Beatrice lament the fact that his supposed homosexuality means that they cannot have sex, ignoring Frederick's clear physical attraction to Beatrice, a woman.
- Companion Cube: Garfield has two (so far): the towel that Chair gave him named "Towel", and a mop called "Eileen"—who he urges "Towel" not to be jealous of…
- Confession Cam: As befits a reality-TV parody. Even one set in 1902. Lampshaded by Beatrice upon escaping the set of Thomas Edison's stag film:
- Beatrice: Some of the stuff I did was pretty embarrassing, but luckily, nobody saw it except for me, the director, the cameraman, the two actors, and the noisy box with the glass eye. [points to camera] Kind of looks like that one.
- Convenient Coma: Albert goes into a coma after being injured by a tomahawk in the third episode. This was done because his actor David Wain was busy with other projects, allowing Wain to still appear on the show but not perform too much.
- Also Chair after Blanche pushes her down the stairs.
- Crossesthe Line Twice: Blanche’s marriage with the doctor is so horrific that it meets this qualification. Immediately upon doing a favor to Dodo and impregnating and marrying Blanche, he absolves himself of all responsibility for raising the kid. It crosses over into ridiculousness when Dodo and the doctor make extreme demands of Blanche’s working schedule when she’s the only one to meet the baby’s basic needs.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Although it is a comedy, this trope features frequently in every episode. Racism, misogyny, and classism are ubiquitous, and everyone pretty much goes along with it.
- The Ditz: Beatrice and Frederick. Though Beatrice is revealed to be a Genius Ditz who hides her intelligence.
- Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Garfield the valet is traumatized after being "ravished" by visiting dowager Pussy Von Anderstein. The rest of the household dismiss his plight; Peepers, in fact, insists Garfield should be proud of his ravishing. Only Chair takes pity on him, giving him a hand towel to dry his tears—which he promptly names "Towel."
- Do You Want to Copulate?: This awkward exchange between Ma and Pa Bellacourt.Dodo: I've called you in here to remind you that, according to our marital contract, I am to fellate you seven times a year.
Commodore: I told you, the saltpeter mines of the Congo destroyed my sex drive.
- Embarrassing First Name: Celery Savoy. Lampshaded by Ms. Savoy herself.Celery: I got the name Celery because Papa always said I took more energy than I gave.
- Embarrassing Nickname: At Beatrice's urging, new maid Celine is promptly (and arbitrarily) dubbed "Chair" by Dodo. In a later episode, Lillian threatens to rename her "Water Closet" if she doesn't toe the line.
- Emotional Regression: Beatrice starts acting like a little girl after learning that Frederick is engaged to another woman (and can no longer have Brother–Sister Incest with her). Accompanied by her Madness Mantra "I can stay a baby forever…"
- Even Evil Has Standards: Lillian is horrified when Victor allows his entire family to be slaughtered. She orchestrated it, but Victor only had to leave the Butternut Room to prevent the deaths. He wanted the Butternut Room for himself, and did not mind if this cost a few lives.
- Everyone Has Standards: As much as they all ignore basic human decency and common sense, the rest of the Bellacourt Family all express varying levels of disgust and mortification whenever Beatrice and Fredrick remark upon or reveal their incestuous relationship.
- Eye Scream: During the climactic brawl in "Senate," Beatrice stabs one of the suffragettes in the eye with the stem of a broken champagne flute. (Doubles as an In-Joke; see the Trivia page to find out why…)
- Faked Kidnapping: In "Switcheroo Day," Lillian—jealous that a kidnapped baby is getting all the local headlines—hires Hamish to do this to her. Which leads to Belligerent Sexual Tension between the two. Which then leads to a Roll in the Hay. Which (unfortunately for Hamish) then leads to The Loins Sleep Tonight. (And ultimately leads to Lillian declaring "I had the worst day. Get me a poultice, a dildo, and a soft French cheese!")
- Faking the Dead: Provides the plot of an episode, but the characters are incompetent at keeping their secret. In the aptly-named episode "Divorce," the sisters concoct a scheme to lose their respective husbands Victor and Albert: the men will be paid several million dollars to disappear, be declared legally dead, and allow the sisters to remarry. The husbands "disappear" only as far as the guest house, then accidentally show up during their own funeral.
- False Friend: Celery Savoy was only pretending to be Lillian's friend, before dumping her at "Rejects Beach."
- Fun with Acronyms: Hortense's suffragette group is called the Newport Association of Gal Spinsters.
- Gay Best Friend: Albert is this to his wife Beatrice. He is the only one who she trusts to do her hair, and she often confides in him about her affair with Frederick.
- Gold Digger: Chair, blatantly so. Lillian also blatantly wants to marry a richer and more influential man.
- Gorgeous Period Dress: As befits 1902 high society Newport. Subverted by the Bellacourt daughters, who dress to the nines and still manage to look trashy.
- Hell Is That Noise: Asked to feign grief ("Funeral") or sing ("Pageant"), all Beatrice can muster is a bizarre squawk. (Subverted in "Pageant" when, after some prompting, she proves to have an opera-quality singing voice.)
- Hidden Depths: Beatrice is illiterate and is regarded as the least intelligent member of the household. However, she has a deeper understanding of math then the rest of her family, is a capable opera singer and flautist, and can be just as manipulative as Lillian. Certain episodes hint that Beatrice is simply Obfuscating Stupidity (to a limited extent, since she is still The Ditz) either for Frederick's sake or simply for her own amusement.
- Historical Domain Character: A new one pops up every other episode: Helen Keller, Charlie Chaplin, Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Charles Ponzi, Mohandas Gandhi, Leo Trotzki, Thomas Edison, Harriet Tubman, Adolf Hitler, Teddy Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Albert Einstein, Harry Houdini, Pablo Picasso.
- Hollywood History: in the episode "Senate" the Commodore says that Senator Ambrose Burnside has died and that Frederick will replace him… even though Burnside died in 1881 and the show is set in 1902. Note that the real-life Burnside was a Union Army general in The American Civil War and would be 78-years-old if still alive in 1902. Though it's often averted, as the lavish lifestyle of the Newport elite was well researched.
- Hysterical Woman: Blanche, whose last known address was the local insane asylum. The entire household (save Chair) takes great delight in scaring her into a screaming fit.
- Idle Rich: The sisters spend their entire days doing as little as possible, to the point of making their servants carry them from room to room.
- The Immodest Orgasm:
- In "Senate," Sigmund Freud diagnoses the Bellacourt women as suffering from "hysteria," and prescribes that their…lady bits…be stimulated with (severally) feathers, a primitive vibrator (that is period-accurate), and a large, bicycle-powered, machine by (respectively) the maids, Dr Freud, and a ferociously-pedalling Garfield. Played straight with Lillian and Beatrice; subverted by Dodo, who barely reacts.
- Male version: in "Lillian's Birthday," Chair and the Commodore sneak off for a mid-day Roll in the Hay—until Chair stops and demands that the Commodore finishes himself. It goes on for minutes.
- Jerkass Ball: Blanche's ego grows tremendously in "Switcheroo Day", when she impersonates a wealthy woman and new friend of Beatrice's, even forcing Chair to feed her.
- Kick the Dog: Lillian's attempts to curry favor with Celery Savoy include plans to make a fur cape for Celery's dog Dumpling. A dog-fur cape, that is. Cut to the kitchen, where Garfield is trying to get some puppies to stick their heads through tiny hangman's nooses.
- Lie Back and Think of England: Lillian and Beatrice have to have sex with their husbands Victor and Albert every now and then, and dread it. Beatrice even has to be chloroformed to participate. Since their husbands are gay, they hate it as much as their wives.
- Lovable Sex Maniac:
- Hamish. He may be crude, filthy, and a hardcore lecher, but his The Loins Sleep Tonight moment with Lillian, rather than being a Rage Breaking Point, finds him chastened and apologetic. Then there is this bemused exchange as the servants discuss Garfield's "ravishing:"Hamish: Hey, does this mean that I can ravish Blanche?
Blanche: Thank you for the thought, Hamish.
Hamish: [courteously] Milady.
- Lillian qualifies in the Really Gets Around category.[to Peepers] You can't have your funeral the same day we're having our funeral. Today is the day I'm gonna meet the thick-dicked man of my dreams.
- Hamish. He may be crude, filthy, and a hardcore lecher, but his The Loins Sleep Tonight moment with Lillian, rather than being a Rage Breaking Point, finds him chastened and apologetic. Then there is this bemused exchange as the servants discuss Garfield's "ravishing:"
- Marriage of Convenience: Blanche and Dr. Goldberg. Since Blanche is pregnant and Dr. Goldberg is a Canadian immigrant, marriage solves both of their problems.
- Minstrel Show:
- Hamish was performing in one when he first met Celine/Chair.
- For the talent portion of the beauty pageant, Lillian performs "mickface", painting her face white, donning a red wig, and enthusiastically performing Irish stereotypes.
- Mistaken for Gay: Frederick, while being prepped to become a senator. By Sigmund Freud, no less. Who then catches Frederick and Beatrice in bed together:Dr. Freud: Frederick, look at you. You are cured. The Masculinity training must have done the trick. I officially declare you a non-homosexual.
Beatrice: Oh, Frederick, I'm so proud of you.
Frederick: You're not concerned at all with the fact that I'm having sex with my sister?
Dr. Freud: Seems perfectly natural to me. Carry on.
- Musical Episode: In "Rejects Beach," upon learning that Celery is going to induct her into the Clam Bake Club, Lillian breaks into a song and dance number with the servants. In "Lillian's Wedding" Beatrice and Frederick break into a song.
- My Secret Pregnancy:
- Chair is pregnant with the Commodore's child.
- In the season finale, Blanche returns from the insane asylum after having been released by Peepers, and pushes Chair down a flight of stairs as revenge for having had her committed to the asylum again. The first season ends with Chair unconscious and the fate of her and the baby inconclusive. Later episodes reveal she ended up in a coma and gave birth to their son, Kermit.
- Nice Jewish Boy:
- Averted: Dr Goldberg is affable with anyone at his level or above, but not at all nice, and gets important matters of Jewish law dead wrong, most notably a doctor's duty to attend to a woman giving birth's supervening all Sabbatical restrications. (Also, not even Orthodox Jews are not supposed to have sex through holes in sheets, let alone with a non-Jew, and sex with a third person present is considered very wrong as well.) He is also not nice in the sense of not having particular vices, being up for just about any vice on-offer.
- Hamish and the Commodore are most likely Jewish, and about as far from nice as one can get short of routine murder.
- No Periods, Period: When Lillian claims that her husband hit her and should be arrested, the police officers ask her bluntly and via various euphemisms if she was having her period when she was hit.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- Scott Joplin and his ahistorical callipygian companion "The Armenian Princess" act and look, respectively, like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
- Very much like Donald Trump, Frederick was born rich and uncurious, and he is ignorant of basic economics. When running for the Presidency, he doesn't actually care about the men he is addressing. They are unemployed via the obsolescence of their profession, Dodo-hunting, but Frederick becomes popular with them and poor Garfield by promising them that they can easily get exactly what they want. He cements the allusion by over-vigourously pulling on their arms as he shakes their hands.
- No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: An in-universe example. Lillian and Beatrice (and Dodo, to a lesser extent) pretty much live this trope. Driven home in the Season 1 finale when, after being banished from Bellacourt Manor, they are recognized by Newport's lower-class citizens as the "Modern Pigs" of newspaper infamy and treated like the celebrities they always wanted to be.
- Not So Above It All: Hortense, as the Only Sane Woman, usually scolds her sisters for their horrible behavior, but in "Harvard" she too laughs at Blanche crying.
- Nouveau Riche: The Bellacourts. They are hillbillies with extravagant wealth, trying to live like kings, with only the faintest idea of how kings actually live.
- Officer O'Hara: The two Irish American police officers who question Lillian when she tries to frame Victor for beating her and then insult her, qualify as this trope.
- Oireland: Lilian's "mickface" Minstrel Show in "Pageant"
- Paper-Thin Disguise: When Blanche impulsively tries on one of Beatrice's dresses, Beatrice thinks she is a different person entirely and declares that Blanche is her new BFF.
- Subverted later on. It turns out that Beatrice was never fooled to begin with. She was just messing with Blanche for her own amusement.
- Pet the Dog: Manipulative, gold-digging Chair is the only character to believe Garfield about his rape and assures him that it isn't his fault, before giving him a towel to comfort him.
- Pixellation: Used in "Funeral", "Doggy Dinner Party", "Rejects Beach" and "Joplin" to suggest that Beatrice… er …forgot to wear her bloomers.
- Politically Correct History: Totally averted. Every nasty flaw of the era, from inaccurate medical treatments to sexist opinions, is depicted without any sugarcoating. The show doesn't shy from representing racism, though sometimes minority characters show up without race coming up as a topic, in order to have a diverse cast. LGBT characters also have it much easier than in reality. By season 2, Albert and Victor seem to just live at the estate as a couple, without facing problems.
- Promiscuity After Rape: It is implied that Beatrice and Fredrick’s sexual relationship (and their individual hypersexuality) stems partly from being molested as children.
- Rape as Backstory:
- While detoxing from morphine, Dodo looks up at the photos of her children and says that they are all products of rape, with Beatrice and Frederick being the "double product of a rape."
- Beatrice and Frederick have both separately made comments that imply that they were molested as children. Beatrice by an older neighbor, and Frederick by a priest.
- Rewatch Bonus: The Beatrice and Blanche plot in “Switcheroo Day“ takes on a different light after The Reveal that Beatrice knew exactly who Blanche was and only played along. In particular, goading Blanche into mistreating (and so angering) the other servants and admitting that she’s kept Blanche’s sister locked in a box under her bed for years.
- Chair. Hamish knows her as the former prostitute who swindled him; to the Commodore, she is his mistress and the mother of their illegitimate child-to-be.
- Peepers, unbeknownst to the Bellacourts, was adopted by a family of American Indians. Subverted, in that it would mean nothing to them except, perhaps, an excuse to pay him even less.
- In "Senate," Hortense and Chef Chauncey Allistar recreate the blindfold-and-food scene from 9½ Weeks.
- In "Pageant," Lillian's win is spoiled when Hortense dumps a bucket of—not blood, but feces—on her head, a la Carrie.
- In "Rejects Beach," Beatrice snaps out of her Emotional Regression state, to realize that she is starring in Thomas Edison's stag film "The Wizard of Ahhhhhh's" and escapes, crying "There's no place like my house!"
- Several to Hamlet, ironically by Frederick. In "Senate" he says "To be queer, or not to be queer, that is the question," and in "Lillian's Wedding" he directly cites a quote from Hamlet when he sends Beatrice away: "Get thee to a nunnery!"
- Stiff Upper Lip: Celery, upon meeting the Bellacourts for the first time. Dodo mistaking her for a urinal? Beatrice acting like a five-year-old and grinding on Frederick? Lillian's frantic attempts to become her best friend? No biggie…
- Tantrum Throwing: Lillian has a massive Trash the Set/Flipping the Table meltdown in the opening moments of the aptly-named "Lillian's Birthday." It's apparentally the norm for her birthday.
- Those Two Guys: The two Irish American police officers.
- Twincest: Beatrice (despite being married) regularly has sex with her twin brother Frederick.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Peepers. His origin story is that he was abandoned by his "white alcoholic parents" en route to the California Gold Rush, and adopted by an American Indian tribe. His accent resembles a constipated Inspector Clouseau.
- Where da White Women At?: At Mark Twain's lawn party, Mahatma Gandhi jokes "I'm just here for the white women."
- In the episode "Senate", Hortense has a sexual fling with (and loses her virginity to) the Commodore's African-American chef friend, who spent the episode beforehand flirting with her.