You’ll be excused if this is the first you’ve ever heard of The Other Two, created and written by Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, former head writers over on SNL. The first season debuted on Comedy Central in January of 2019, and it was quickly renewed a week after its debut. Over two-and-a-half years later, and the second season finally arrives, now on HBO Max. I wouldn’t have known about it had it not been for the ads featuring Molly Shannon plastered all over the Internet, although the series itself barely gets a mention in the big L.A. Times profile on Shannon from over the weekend (I had no idea she lost her mother, younger sister, and cousin in a car accident when she was 4).
To be honest, while I like Molly Shannon, using her as the face of The Other Two is exactly what made me hesitant to watch. She’s a great supporting actor (as evidenced by her turn in White Lotus), but the idea of a Molly Shannon-led series is not particularly appealing. Nevertheless, ahead of the second season, I decided to sample the first and quickly discovered two things: 1) Molly Shanon is a supporting character in The Other Two and is inserted in the exact right amount of doses, and 2) The Other Two is terrific. I sat down and watched all 10 episodes in one gulp and, for about three-and-a-half hours, I ignored any and all other responsibilities in my life. I loved it.
The series is a quick-witted satire of Hollywood and Internet culture combined with the character work of a show like Schitt’s Creek. Characters who seem slightly obnoxious at first glance quickly grow on you as the series both expands and moves away from its original conceit.
Case Walker plays Chase Dreams, a Justin Bieber-like 13-year-old who stumbles into massive fame after one of his YouTube music videos goes viral. Chase Dreams is not the central character of The Other Two. He weirdly is, however, the character who is often the most grounded — he just wants to be a regular kid, but allows himself to be swept up in the machine mostly because he wants to please those around him. Chase’s mother Pat is played by Molly Shannon. Pat recently lost her husband, and she seems to be processing her grief by taking as much advantage of her son’s success as possible, accepting every appearance and perk available to her, including offers to write her own children’s book. Ken Marino plays Streeter Peters, Chase’s manager, who seems like an idiot, but he also has a weird, savant-like understanding of Gen Z culture (he’s very much a Ken Marino character). Wanda Sykes plays an executive at Chase Dreams’ record label whose every decision seems to be dictated by the whims of TikTok and Twitter.
The central characters — the “other two” — are siblings Brooke and Cary Dubek (Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver, respectively). They’re in their late 20s and wandering aimlessly through their lives. Brooke hasn’t done anything memorable since attending ballet school 12 years prior and she’s been in a relationship with a simple-minded but lovely guy who dreams about designing novelty shoes. Cary is a waiter/aspiring actor and a New York City cliche; the closest thing he has to a relationship is when his horny but “straight” roommate makes out with him while watching Survivor or casually jerks off in front of him (it’s one of the show’s best running gags).
It’s an absurdist comedy — it has some serious 30 Rock vibes — but once we get to know them, there’s a surprising amount of warmth to the characters. They know they’re all cliches but are trying to break out of their molds. Brooke and Cary are hesitant, at first, to capitalize on their little brother’s fleeting fame, but eventually acknowledge that there are many paths to success and this one is as good as any other. Brooke starts out as Chase’s personal assistant and finds that she’s surprisingly competent, while Cary uses his brother’s connections — and the fame he gains for being the “gay brother” — to open doors to better acting opportunities.
It’s mostly about the comedy, however, and The Other Two brilliantly skewers Gen Z culture without insulting the members of Gen Z — it’s a mockery of Gen Z at the expense of millennials, and it’s funny but not mean-spirited. The culture is ridiculous, but at least the Gen Z’ers are assured and know how to navigate it, while the struggling millennials can’t even figure out who they want to be. The siblings remind me a lot of David and Alexis Rose — they’re funny caricatures, but the more we get to know them, the more we become smitten. Molly Shannon, likewise, is terrific as the mom, who we think is one of those nightmare parents of child stars, but who we learn is really just going through a difficult time after the loss of her husband.
The Other Two is razor-sharp but it has a big heart, and it’s easily the best 2019 comedy of 2021.
The second season premieres tomorrow, August 26th, on HBO Max, where the entire first season is already available.
Header Image Source: HBO Max