By Chris Revelle | TV | May 3, 2023 |
By Chris Revelle | TV | May 3, 2023 |
The Other Two is about the jaded siblings of Bieber-like Chase Dreams (Case Walker), a child pop prodigy on a rapid ascent to fame and fortune. Brooke (the dynamic Heléne Yorke) is a former dancer who’s struggling to find the right career. She’s foul-mouthed, quick-witted, and aimless as she bounces between job ideas and flirtations with Lance (your true himbo king Josh Segarra). Aspiring actor and current waiter Carey (Bajillion Dollar Properties star Drew Tarver) is the complementary counterpart: clever and observant like his sister, but more shy and awkward. He carries an uncertainty with himself and hasn’t fully come out of his shell in regard to his sexuality. Their mother Pat (Molly Shannon, killing it) is a ball of manic sunshine who begins the series as Chase’s well-intentioned stage mom. Overbearing manager Streeter (Ken Marino) and shrewd publicist Shuli (queen Wanda Sykes) represent the bizarro world of the entertainment industry with an escalating series of zany schemes to lift Chase’s star.
There’s a strong difference (and yet still a tricky line) between queer media for queer people and queer media for straight people. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but for me, the two feel very different. To illustrate this, compare Queer Eye to We’re Here. Queer Eye is performative and explanatory; it assumes its audience is open-minded but not that knowledgeable about the LGBTQ+ community. It’s also a show that has been recommended to me exclusively by straight people. On the other hand, We’re Here assumes you’re at least an ally and serves you an uplifting look at people across the country who find themselves through drag. Everyone I know that’s seen We’re Here is queer.
I remember the precise moment I realized The Other Two understood this difference. In a season 2 episode, Pat welcomes a straight father and his gay son during a Shutterfly-sponsored segment of her talk show Pat! In pointedly apologetic fashion, they tell their story of the son’s brave coming out and the father’s yet-braver tolerance for his son’s sexuality, no matter how weird it is. They’re both lavished with praise, but the father especially so, with dialogue emphasizing the inherent grossness of queer identity and the saintly patience to allow it. Cue a big check from Shutterfly! It’s a laser-targeted skewering with layers goofing on hollow corporate rainbow-washing, backhanded “tolerance,” and respectability politics. Not to be too corny, but I felt seen. The scene wraps multiple barbs into one beautifully spiky pincushion that spoke directly to my searingly queer heart. And then The Other Two did something that knocked me right on my ass: it turned this sharply observant lens right onto me.
Later in the episode, Carey is meeting his new boyfriend Jess (Gideon Glick) at a restaurant when they see the father and son at another table. We cut to the father and son’s private conversation and quickly learn they are a couple with an open marriage, kids, and a deck that needs re-doing. They put on a show on Pat! and cha-ching. As they’re discussing which Grindr dude they want for the night, Carey and Jess approach on a mission straight out of respectability politics hell: they want to take the pair out on the town to show off how normal gay people can be. I flinched out of my skin. I felt seen before, but feeling observed was different. I won’t spoil the cringe comedy Olympics that follow, but it yanked me back to the first few years after I came out, when I felt like I had to thank every straight person for not being openly disgusted and emphasizing how “normal” I still was. It nails this difficult feeling and it’s hilarious.
The show is fantastic for countless reasons and I could go on about them, but the one I want to talk about is how specifically, wonderfully gay it is. Never did I imagine I would get a dark sitcom with HBO money that’s so gay. It doesn’t pull sexual punches or explain itself. It’s not the Ryan Murphy style that pats straight people on the back for knowing what a bottom is. It’s Drew Tarver giving a physical comedy clinic while taking a butthole pic in an airplane bathroom. It’s a web series called ‘The Gay Minute’ that’s almost entirely news about Laura Dern. It’s a quartet of sweethearted thirst trapping twunks telling Carey he’s so funny, he’s “literally Jimmy Fallon.” There’s a hyper-specific Aaron Schock joke in the Season 2 finale that made me cackle. The Other Two threads a daunting needle between zany satire and sharply observed character humor. This is due in huge part to fantastic writing from series creators Sarah Schneider and Chris Kelly. You’ll also see episodes written by queer comedy stars Joel Kim Booster and Cole Escola, whose work in Fire Island and Difficult People respectively are worth your while.
The Other Two feels like a unicorn. It began on Comedy Central before moving to HBO for its second season and that’s where its third season premieres. It’s felt like this incredible secret this whole time, this spiky satire about fame and family making perfectly aimed jokes about queer culture that don’t pander. That doesn’t happen a lot. Most of the time, it feels like references made to Gay Stuff on TV can only ever be so deep so as not to lose a presumably majority-hetero audience, if they’re made at all. The Other Two proves you can have lived-in, relatable, hysterical queer representation that’s still accessible to the straights. The entire cast does career-best work, especially Tarver, Yorke, and Shannon who merge poignancy and humanity so smoothly with the farcical antics always going on.
The Other Two season 3 premieres on HBO MAX on May 4th with two new episodes and a new episode every Thursday.
Chris Revelle has many thoughts about media and can be heard shrieking about them on Why Did We Watch This?