For one of the funniest shows on TV, “The Other Two” hasn’t been afraid of tragedy. One overarching storyline through the show’s first season found a family trying to reckon with the loss of one of their own. Sure, it all played against a 13-year-old’s rise from viral YouTube sensation to globally famous teen pop icon, but it was always there. Siblings Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver) were constantly figuring out how to tell their newly minted celebrity brother Chase Dreams (Case Walker) the truth about their dad’s death. They agonized over how to keep their mom Pat (Molly Shannon) from accidentally making the situation worse, despite her best intentions.
Now as the show approaches Season 2 — streaming as an HBO Max Original after the first season originally debuted on Comedy Central — it’s still an aspect of their family the Dubeks don’t exactly relish talking about. But with Chase off to college and leaving his music career behind, all of that bottled up anxiety has slowly worked its way into other forms, lingering in all the ways the show knows well how to capitalize on.
The biggest change that “The Other Two” makes is flipping the season’s most prominent famous Dubek. Pat now finds herself as the host of a daytime talk show with her own name on it, connecting with a legion of enthusiastic fans who seem to share all her interests. When Brooke tells one particularly eager audience member, “She loves you and she’s just like you,” she intends it as dismissive way of pacifying someone. As the season goes on, it becomes true in ways Brooke doesn’t always recognize.
More often than not, Season 1 positioned Cary as the more reasonable one of this title pair. He had the on-camera ambitions, but seemed to have a slightly better grasp on the desperation in some of his own decisions. Brooke was the one allergic to facing consequences, perfectly content with embracing an in-the-moment nuclear option, long-term effects be damned.
Neither of their tendencies has disappeared and both still have their opportunist streaks. What Season 2 gives them — in the process making for an even more well-rounded overall show than before — is an appreciation for the sincerity that their mom and younger brother have brought to their newfound cachet. Chase is still cheery and straightforward, sometimes to a fault. Pat seems to be using her extra opportunities to do good, however much she may overshare about her beloved children.
It’s that vein of occasional earned sweetness that keeps “The Other Two” from just being a parade of awkward interactions and cringey try-hard misadventures. Brooke and Cary certainly have their share of those. No one knows how to grab a shovel and keep digging quite like these two — Brooke with her pursuit of status and Cary in his quest to be accepted. With this season’s added runtime (a few extra minutes beyond the usual cable TV parameters), there’s also a touch of self-awareness that creeps in. Originally seeded in the Season 1 reframing of Brooke’s ex-boyfriend Lance (Josh Segarra) from an overeager doofus to someone genuinely in touch with his own passions, no one in this show is fixed or unmovable. If anything, most of the industry-facing jokes come from the sheer speed at which things can move: branded content, additions to a social media empire, or, say, responsibilities at a management firm.
So this time around, the greater tragedy of reckoning with the loss of their dad gets refracted into a lot of smaller ones. Co-creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider capture the entertainment world’s all-encompassing “grass is always greener” mentality, and they do so with a rare clarity. The characters who are singularly focused on the next gig or the next rung up on the hierarchical ladder are the ones who are most rocked by disappointment. Sometimes, the results are hilarious. In a sequence of Season 2’s fourth episode set at a New York-area celebrity church, there’s an ascending bit of one-upping that perfectly encapsulates everyone involved.
Now that having relatives who get recognized on the street isn’t a foreign concept for Cary and Brooke, the show shifts that novelty into something else. If there’s an unspoken running theme through the first six episodes of Season 2, it’s that the Other Dubeks are stuck in a cycle of having exactly what the people around them don’t need, and vice versa. For them, being closer to the hub of pop culture extravagance only hones their sense that perfect is a perpetual enemy of good. Aside from the aforementioned Lance, they do have an unlikely confidant in Chase’s manager (and aspiring stepdad) Streeter (Ken Marino). Cary has the makings of a loving relationship with new boyfriend Jess (Gideon Glick, bringing along with him the season’s most welcome influx of new energy). There are plenty of instances where Brooke has the thing she’s ostensibly going for, but finds some way to talk herself out of it.
Whether it’s a nagging sense of self-doubt or a misplaced belief they deserve something better, the tiny Season 2 implosions aren’t coming from two people thrust into a weird corner of fame with no way to handle it. The more Cary and Brooke seem to realize what they’re doing to themselves (and those around them), the deeper “The Other Two” becomes.
In the process, the show hasn’t lost its love of celebrity weirdness. As Cary cycles through an endless parade of on-air hosting gigs, Tarver is eerily good at slipping right into the cadence of entertainment news teleprompter reading. Yorke can switch between Brooke’s job-related overconfidence and frustration in a snap — to see her do it frequently in a single take is one of the show’s main comic weapons. And Kelly and Schneider pull off a few impressive high-wire acts of their own, particularly a pair of separate misunderstandings with other couples entwined with Cary and Jess over the season’s opening half.
So while “The Other Two” can still slice Blake Lively, Vogue, and “The Big Bang Theory” jokes with relative ease, this season has some extra tears and introspection, too. Maybe not everyone in the Dubek inner circle has found what they’re looking for, but the show smartly keeps giving them new and illuminating ways to try.
The first two episodes of “The Other Two” Season 2 are now available to stream on HBO Max. New episodes are set to be released on Thursdays.