Spoilers for Season 1 of The Other Two.
More than two years have passed since the Dubek siblings’ last outing in the excellent first season of The Other Two. A pandemic delayed follow-up makes its debut on HBO Max (August 26) — Season one aired on Comedy Central — and this long-awaited return does not disappoint. Millennials Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary Dubek (Drew Tarver) were already both struggling to find their place in New York City when 13-year-old brother Chase (Case Walker) becomes an overnight sensation of Justin Bieber level proportions. “Marry U At Recess” is the title of the ChaseDreams track that led to this quick rise to stardom, which is one of several earworms crafted by creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider with singer-songwriter Brett McLaughlin. Tongue is firmly pressed in cheek with lyrics like “Girl since the age of 10, I knew that I would spend my whole life with you,” but Chase performs this with sincerity and it is lapped up by audiences. Follow-up hits include “My Brother’s is Gay” and the hip hop leaning “Stink.”
Brooke and Cary are the forgotten siblings but Chase’s new celebrity status presents an opportunity to turn their professional hustles into a reality. Cary is an out-of-work actor making money waiting tables and Brooke’s has spent the last few years listlessly attempting to figure out what she wants to do with her life — a career in ballet was cut short. Slipping into a position of power isn't easy and Brooke's journey up the ladder isn't without humiliation. Both are navigating personal challenges too as Cary has never had a boyfriend and Brooke is no longer satisfied with dopey sweetheart Lance (Josh Segarra). Midwestern mom Pat (Molly Shannon) has her heart in the right place but a huge secret about their dad’s death spills out during a live stream album launch event late in Season 1 and hapless manager Streeter Peters (Ken Marino) is ineffectual at every turn.
The world has changed a lot since Chase performed at the VMAs in the first season finale when audiences found out his real singing voice is less than appealing. Brooke had been made Chase’s co-manager so she is distraught when her youngest brother announces he wants to quit showbiz to go to college. Pat has successfully navigated the scandal of lying to Chase about his dad’s death — he froze to death on the roof of their house while on a drinking bender not from cancer — and scored a daytime chat show. Each of the Dubek’s has endured an emotional rollercoaster that is set to continue in Season 2, and this hilarious exploration of fame never shies away from the deep scars of the past. Brooke and Cary still face numerous challenges along the way and if you need a reason to tune in you’re in luck as we’ve got five below.
Before Kelly and Schneider created The Other Two, the pair helped usher in a new era on Saturday Night Live and were made co-head writers in 2016 (Kelly was the first openly gay head writer) before leaving at the end of that season to pursue other projects. During this time they earned five Emmy nominations and wrote sketches including “The Beygency” and “First Got Horny to U.” The latter serves as an early indicator of how strong the pair are at crafting fake pop hits that will play on a loop in your head. The Other Two is far from an SNL retread and while the music videos no doubt benefit from the sketch format, this is not a case of sewing together one absurd situation after another. Rather, they successfully pair observations about celebrities, the media, and those dreaming to be on the inside with heightened scenarios that could potentially happen. The writing duo has experience with many megastars who have walked the hallowed halls of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, which only adds to the mix of authenticity and hilarity. Creative insecurity also bubbles through as does the aging millennial of it all with Gen-Z nipping at the heels of those pushing 30 (and beyond).
The SNL connections continue with Molly Shannon playing well-meaning matriarch Pat — she also played the mother in Other People, a movie written and directed by Kelly and loosely based on his life. Instead of a pushy stage mom stereotype, Pat has thrown herself headfirst into all the opportunities that come with a famous son, which she uses to deflect away from the pain of her husband’s death. Pat is someone who has always had to pretend that everything is fine as a coping method to the alcoholism that ripped a hole in her family. Her seemingly endless optimism isn’t fake but a necessary method to keep it together.
Both Tarver and Yorke have great sibling chemistry and deftly walk the frustrated and opportunist line as they both want the best for Chase but also a piece of the pie. Meanwhile, Case Walker who plays the teen star has grown at least a foot taller during the hiatus, and yet he still possesses the blissful adorability of the first season. He is far from a brat, which also avoids some cliches of teen stars. Wanda Sykes is excellent as record label executive Shuli Kucerac who is happy with whatever ChaseDreams is doing as long as it makes them money. When juxtaposed with Marino’s less than effectual manager it further cranks up the comedy and reveals an industry bristling with competence and those winging it.
It's Got Heart
Celebrities are not safe from the fast-flowing gags (see the very funny Blake Lively fusion restaurant in the Season 2 opener), but this is not a comedy about mean people being mean. Yes, Cary and Brooke are susceptible to selfish acts to further their ambitions, however, they often fall foul to whatever scheme they have undertaken and malice is not the motivator. Last season when Cary tried to score a role in a Ryan Murphy series he hung out with a group of Instagays to boost his follower count and this year Cameo causes issues for the wannabe actor. His heart is in the right place, which ups the cringe humor and only adds to his insecurity. Ultimately, the siblings are there for each other and want the best for their mom even if she drives them crazy at times. In Season 2, Pat finds stardom on the kind of daytime show she turned to when home life was tough and there is a warmth to the matriarch that her children cannot turn away from — even if she is also blissfully unaware of how inappropriate she can be at times.
Pop Culture References
When Chase moved to New York City with his mother in Season 1, manager Streeter rented Justin Theroux’s bachelor pad apartment. Features include a toilet that looks like a motorcycle, a walk-in closet dedicated to his boot collection, a home church (see above), a rock garden in the living room, and a six-foot-tall photo of the Leftovers star. Kelly and Schneider did run the script by the actor, but this level of specificity speaks to the pop culture references woven throughout. The sophomore outing doesn’t stray from this path and deftly mixes very online observations with broader entertainment nods. From Cary’s multiple new online host jobs that pay peanuts — including some very funny Laura Dern jokes — to Pat’s not being able to tell real celebrities from those who look vaguely like Mandy Moore, The Other Two doesn’t require knowledge in celeb studies but it helps if you recognize the names. Fame is fickle and this story taps into the fleeting (and ridiculous) nature of being a star.
Whether it is ChaseDreams’ take on Gen-Z street style or Brooke switching her outfit to match her different clients, costume designer Jill Bream knows how important fashion is when crafting a story in this industry. Cary has a very funny shirt rotation system in the premiere (featuring bestie Curtis), and Brooke’s collection of outerwear this season is impressive. Perhaps the most coveted item isn’t the leather jackets or expensive suits but the pat! merch Cary wears in bed.
Season 2 of The Other Two premieres Thursday, 26 August on HBO Max.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.
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