“The Other Two” premieres in the plum timeslot directly after “Broad City,” and Comedy Central couldn’t have done better for its hilarious new series. Former “Saturday Night Live” writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider are behind this showbiz satire about two adult siblings who are still struggling with their careers when their 13-year-old brother suddenly becomes a viral singing sensation. Broad and goofy, yet snarky as hell, this comedy hasn’t met a pop culture reference it didn’t love to exploit. But beneath that farce is a surprisingly endearing portrait of a loving family still raw from shared pain.
Cary Dubek (Drew Tarver of “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$”) is a 28-year-old actor who can’t seem to land any decent auditions, while his older sister Brooke (Helene Yorke) is a has-been dancer trying to find her passion. When their teenage brother, who has dubbed himself Chase Dreams (Case Walker), becomes a pop star overnight with his song “Marry U at Recess,” the whole family gets caught up in his star-making tour. Watch the viral video below:
While Cary is hoping to draft off his brother’s fame to boost his own career, Brooke finds herself suddenly discovering her responsible side when their mother Pat (Molly Shannon) finds she likes the spotlight herself. Ken Marino plays Chase’s fawning yet clueless manager Streeter, while Wanda Sykes plays ruthless PR wizard Shuli.
Beginning with an unsubtle homage to Justin Bieber’s career beginnings, complete with a funky-named manager, “The Other Two” is a joke-a-minute buffet that revels in real-world jabs and cameos. No one is safe from getting name-checked, whether it’s Meghan Trainor or “Queer Eye” food expert Antoni Porowski, and an ongoing, insanely funny Justin Theroux joke is possibly the best reason to familiarize oneself with the actor other than “The Leftovers.”
However, knowledge of specific pop culture isn’t necessary to watch because ultimately, the laughs derive from lampooning how modern culture isn’t sure how to treat the massive overnight wave of young stars and other insta-celebs. One gaggle of girls at a party define the parameters: “Your teens are for work, your 20s are for rest… and your 30s are for making a global impact.” And at a red carpet event, Chase weighs in on “Israel or Palestine?” — an inane question that should never have been asked. Again and again, Streeter and Shuli try to rebrand their young star — the wholesome heartthrob, the sex symbol — to promote a personality that will lead to likes, clicks, and sales.
Tarver gives Cary a delightfully deadpan acceptance to the circus around him as he tries to marry his ambitions with the shortcut to fame promised by these curated and crafted personas. Meanwhile, Yorke is a particularly expressive and physical comedian who brings out the “anything goes” side of Brooke. Viewers can’t help but root for these siblings who are ill-equipped with what life has thrown at them, yet gamely recalibrate their approach even as they lean on each other. As Pat, Molly Shannon is at her Molly Shannon-est — all gleaming teeth, dimples, and elbows. She’s a vision of perfection that quickly devolves into loose-limbed pratfalls and maniacal positivity.
“The Other Two” goes beyond these beautifully realized messes, however, to add a tempered poignance that Kelly had perfected in his indie film hit “Other People,” which also starred Shannon (with a smaller role for Tarver) about a family dealing with their matriarch’s illness. Into the show’s conversation about fame comes the bigger question about life, and what contributes to that sense of purpose and happiness. It’s a remarkable feat to witness the gradual character growth for each of the Dream Team over the 10 half-hour joke-laden episodes. And yet, Kelly and Schneider have mastered that balance of sitcom punchiness and character development, without sacrificing momentum or laughs.
“The Other Two” couldn’t have come at a better time for Comedy Central. The network has to fill the void left by so many of its signature series and comedians — ranging from “Nathan for You” and “Workaholics” to “Key & Peele” and “Inside Amy Schumer” — and now “Broad City” as it takes its victory lap for its fifth and final season. “The Other Two” proves itself a worthy companion. It’s raucously sex-positive and delightfully weird, but underlying is a love of the very culture it’s mocking. It’s exactly the comedy that’s needed now: funny, feel-good, and forgiving of humanity.
“The Other Two” premieres at 10:30 p.m. ET on Comedy Central, right after “Broad City” debuts its final season.