Other than FOX’s The Masked Singer, Comedy Central’s The Other Two might just be the biggest surprise of 2019. Yes, there are still 11 months left in the year, but since those months aren’t happening yet, the point stands.
Created by former Saturday Night Live head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, The Other Two tells the story of Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver), older siblings to a YouTube viral sensation named ChaseDreams (Case Walker). Brooke and Cary are both about to be on the wrong side of 30 and have little to show for it. Brooke was a professional dancer when she was Chase’s age, but now she’s floundering in both her professional and personal lives. Cary, on the other hand, is a waiter/struggling actor who has to contend with being deemed either “too gay” for straight parts or not social media famous enough for gay parts, alongside his general feeling that he deserves more than he has right now. Once, Chase breaks out, Cary’s often just called “gay brother,” which is definitely not a timesaver compared to “Cary” but is arguably easier to remember. (He’s got some serious middle child issues.)
Based off the original announcement about the series and even its trailers, you could say its easy to see where this all goes: Brooke and Cary resent Chase but ultimately try to use him to advance their own careers, their mother Pat (Molly Shannon) is a stage mom caricature, Chase is a secret monster, and it all exists amongst the backdrop of mocking YouTube stardom and influencer culture.
But the funny thing is, that’s not the show at all. Well, the last part is a component of the show’s DNA, but that’s just because the series is a satire. It just so happens to be a satire with a ton of heart, like the underrated feature film Josie and the Pussycats. The series technically takes place in the real world, but it’s just askew enough that you might question it. Technically, there’s nothing askew about the world of The Other Two at all; it just heightens the idea of people being “famous for nothing” or “only being famous to Gen Z-ers.” It’s also apparent that, while Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider certainly aren’t experts on this particular world — unlike Case Walker, a 15-year-old who broke out on Musical.ly, amassing nearly 2 million fans on that platform — they did the research to make the joke more than two-dimensional. Because of how seedy and dark all of this is, it’s for the best that The Other Two is more concerned with keeping the family dynamic strong and these characters trying to keep each other afloat, whatever that means. In fact, despite how low things are for them, Chase still looks up to his siblings and even attributes the entire concept of chasing your dreams to them.
Like any good/bad viral YouTube sensation, ChaseDreams’ songs are upsettingly catchy, especially one called “Stink.” (The lyrics are absolutely bonkers.) But while these songs and their accompanying videos reach varying degrees of absurdity, the series isn’t punching down to mock Chase and his viral contemporaries. Instead, The Other Two smartly lampoons how ridiculous it is that a kid who decides to make a fun video (Chase’s breakout video, “Marry U At Recess”) can become a manufactured brand, existing in a bizarre bubble detached from reality. While Shannon’s Pat (and her “year of yes”) represents the surprising fun that can come out of a situation, Ken Marino’s manager character Streeter is the gateway to seeing all the people who don’t have Chase’s best interests at heart and only see dollar signs — people like Wanda Sykes’ publicist character, Shuli.
Instead, while the Dreams (aka Dubek) family are in a messy place — a point that is also exacerbated by the fact that Papa Dreams passed away just a year ago — The Other Two regularly reinforces how much they love each other and root for each other to succeed. The feelings of jealousy and incredulity are definitely there on Brooke and Cary’s parts, but that never steps on the genuine love between the family. And it’s key that Yorke, Tarver, Walker, and Shannon truly do come across as a strong family unit, with Marino as the obnoxious interloper who only thinks he’s a part of the family (in the strangest way possible). As Brooke tells Cary early in the season, “We must live every day like it’s the last day that Chase is famous.”
Despite the softer side of showbiz that The Other Two sets out to show none of this is to say there’s no edge within the series. It doesn’t just take the easy route and go edgy for the sake of edgy. In fact, the Brooke character is the butt of the joke at times because of her desire to do just that, all in her warped belief that she’s a “smart, young progressive.” (She is not.) The Other Two also loves a good running joke, and sometimes it comes at the most unexpected places, like the evolution of the “gay brother” bit.
As low-key as The Other Two feels compared to more frantic Comedy Central series like Broad City and Corporate, it is a series with heavyweight comedic forces in front of the camera, with writing that doesn’t let down. Streeter feels at home with many other sleazy Ken Marino characters, but an interesting part of the season is unpacking what makes him tick and what fuels him to stick around ChaseDreams and his family, besides financial gain. And Molly Shannon’s Pat is one of those understated Molly Shannon performances that just feels so real, that when she finally unloads, it’s all so earned. Her Midwestern politeness toward people — famous or otherwise — is such a fun contrast to Brooke and Cary’s dry, jaded approach to life, especially when they ultimately have to give in to their love for her.
But of course, the focal point of The Other Two is “the other two,” Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver.
Yorke is terrific in everything she’s in (see: High Maintenance, The Good Fight, and Graves) and The Other Two is no exception. She’s arguably playing the bigger mess of the two, as Brooke thinks she’s got it all figured out, even when she very clearly does not. Brooke’s arc in the season is so fun to watch. And in terms of visibility, the biggest show Drew Tarver’s previously been a major part of was Seeso’s Bajillion Dollar Properties, where he was great in the over-the-top parody sense; but here in The Other Two, Tarver plays possibly the closest thing to the straight man of the series. Even though, coincidentally, Cary’s status as an openly gay actor — who’s both too gay for casting directors or not gay enough to be seen as anything other than “funny” by InstaGays — is a major component of the story. Both Brooke and Cary’s stories — which the entire season is so great about paralleling with every episode’s structure — are both ultimately about acceptance, though Cary has the hardest go of it.
According to Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, the show’s plan — should it go beyond its first season — is to redefine the concept of who exactly “the other two” are with each season. Schneider said:
“We wanted to blow up what the first season was so next season wasn’t just going to be more in the same dynamic. We like the idea of the dynamic within the family constantly shifting and maybe even like, who ‘the other two’ is shifting based on what’s going on with the rest of them.”
While there’s no telling yet if Kelly and Schneider will get their wish to continue to redefine what The Other Two is and what the concept means, as the first season stands, they managed to create something special.
‘The Other Two’ premieres Thursday, January 24th, at 10:30 pm ET on Comedy Central.