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‘The Other Two’ Finds Comedy Truth Inside Its Hollywood Mayhem

It may be wrapped in a bicoastal blanket of jokes about the entertainment business, but this HBO Max comedy has become a really insightful family story, too.

The Other Two Season 2 Helene Yorke Drew Tarver

Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver in “The Other Two”

Greg Endries / HBO Max

[This post originally appeared as part of Recommendation Machine, IndieWire’s daily TV picks feature.]

Where to Watch ‘The Other Two: HBO Max

It’s telling that Pat Dubek (another unsurprisingly great performance from Molly Shannon) is the hardest-working woman in the industry, but not because she feeds off attention or wants to climb the fame ladder. It’s because she feels bad saying “no.” In a Season 2 filled with perfectly calibrated digs aimed at all corners of the entertainment business, “The Other Two” proved that it also had room to deal with some real emotion underneath.

Few other comedies on TV can swing between absurd genre riffs (Episode 8 has maybe the best cameo of 2021, and this is a show with plenty of contenders for that title) and a careful consideration of what fame can do to a person. Pat isn’t even one of the people referenced in the show’s title — it’s her kids Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Heléne Yorke) that are usually the focus of each episode. But running through the background of a season filled with observations about how the Dubeks have changed (and ways in which they very much haven’t) is that everyone ends up getting the thing they’ve said they were looking for.

But as mentioned in our Season 2 review from last August (I know it’s really played out at this point to make observations like this, but how was that only a little over four months ago now), those ideal scenarios always come at a price or in some mangled form. In “The Other Two,” their brother Chase’s (Case Walker) success is their own cursed monkey paw, bringing them face to face with the stars they idolize and the opportunities they’ve always claimed to want.

The idea that these never come to fruition as planned isn’t just some screed against the business at large, though. Series creators and lead writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider also set up plenty of circumstances where various Dubeks seem legitimately happy. They’re getting recognized for their work or making a change in some fan’s life or brushing shoulders with their dream Instagram followers or flirting with some of the most attractive people on each coast. Knowing that there’s a very good chance it could all come crashing down doesn’t completely cancel out the moments of excitement that come for Pat or Cary or Brooke. (Chase’s own ambling form of celebrity is another Season 2 thread that happens largely in the background, but comes to a point in a pivotal family moment.)

Even if Actors Access is something outside your usual reference points, “The Other Two” also has found room for a ton of different kinds of jokes. (Kelly and Schneider each direct episodes this season, too, sprinkling in a steady stream of laughs that don’t necessarily come from dialogue.) The timing of the Cameo episode, the endless parade of misunderstandings, the cold open on a first-class flight to LA, Brooke’s mannerisms while participating in a panel she didn’t prepare for, Ken Marino’s delivery of Streeter’s full name: It’s one of the most satisfying shows on TV specifically because it’s not trying to make you laugh the same way twice.

Season 3 is on its way eventually and while Schneider has ruled out doing a bunch of episodes dealing with lockdown, building a strong family dynamic over the first two seasons means that “The Other Two” isn’t just reliant on whatever is happening in the entertainment world in any given year. Even the back-and-forth between Brooke and her ex Lance (Josh Segarra) became one of the strongest parts of the series over the back half of this past season. Transplant all these characters to a faraway location, away from any crowded sets or ritzy galas and “The Other Two” would have all it needs to survive: the people that are already there.

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