The Other Two is a show about balance. You can’t have a show that’s just about the idiocracies of fame because there won’t be any thing to ground it. You also can’t exactly have a show that’s just about two broken people, since it’ll disappear among every other comedy that’s about exactly that. That’s why The Other Two is about both.
In the show’s inaugural season, struggling actor Cary (Drew Tarver) and former dancer and now unemployed interior designer Brooke (Heléne Yorke) are suddenly thrust into a spotlight when their younger brother ChaseDreams (Case Walker) becomes a viral sensation. Now that Chase is famous, Cary and Brooke have to decide if they’re going to use his new-found fame for their own gain. Across the 10-episode first season, the answer seems to be yes, but with some trepidation and a lot of absolute misunderstandings about the entertainment industry they’re suddenly a part of.
This isn’t your typical fame satire, however, but a balance between two concepts. The show, created by former Saturday Night Live head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, knows that the industry is chaotic and ripe for comedy, but doesn’t stick its nose up at it. Kelly and Schneider also understood that at the heart of the story, there still needed to be a character-driven, intimate narrative that kept audiences coming back.
“We were kind of between two ideas,” Schneider said during a recent Comedy Central press event. “We wanted to write stories about being in your 20s and being in New York, as we were, and so, we can make a show out of just that, but we liked having a larger premise because it let us tell bigger, slightly sillier stories about characters that were a little broader.”
So while Cary and Brooke are dealing with the idiosyncrasies of entertainment in 2019, they’re also figuring out who they are as people, why they’re not successful but their teenage brother is, the secret and trauma that’s slowly tearing apart their family, and if, despite everything, they can still protect their brother from what is clearly a toxic industry. Through it all Tarver and Yorke balance physical comedy with quiet moments of drama. It’s a mix that would’ve been a lot to handle, but Schneider, Kelly and the rest of the writing team make it work.
“There are a lot of things in the show that are very pop culture-y and celeb-y, but we didn’t want it to consume the show,” Kelly said. “We try to make sure that if we were to put Cary on Watch What Happens Live, for example, it exposed his insecurities.”
This does happen. In one of the show’s cameo-laden scenes (Andy Cohen and Patrick Wilson show up here, but the audience is also graced with Wanda Sykes and a running joke about Justin Theroux having a motorcycle as a toilet, which the showrunners reassure he was totally on board for), Cary has to worry about his physical appearance and his success compared to his mother’s, played by Molly Shannon, who is also a guest on the show that day and has also parlayed her relationship with her son into a children’s book-writing career.
It’s tough to go into the minutiae of the characters’ issues without spoiling some of the show’s best jokes—and there are a lot of them—but in figuring out the balance The Other Two had to strike, Kelly and Schneider understood that it couldn’t be about Chase and fame. It had to be about the titular “other two.”
“We never wanted to just be doing pop culture jokes; it was for a reason,” Kelly continued. “Our goal in the writers room was, if you took away Chase and you deleted him as a character and there was no fame, all these characters would still be going through the same struggles. So Cary needed to be more comfortable in his own skin, he struggles with his sexuality and his identity. Brooke was always going to have to figure out, ‘What now? I had a huge success at 12 and now I’m 30. Now what?’”
Even if the show is mainly about Cary and Brooke, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to poke fun at entertainment. Ken Marino plays Chase’s oddly sweet manager Streeter (no relation to infamous Bieber manager Scooter Braun), who puts Chase through the ringer, wrapping his neck to keep the adam’s apple down or feeding him a diet of nothing but raw eggs (something the showrunners said Braun did for Bieber while he was on SNL, oddly). Streeter is also a savvy professional who looks at Chase not just as a client, but as a friend.
Where the show strikes its most precarious balance is with how Cary and Brooke interact with that world, especially now that social media is such a vital part in who gets famous.
Cary and Brooke are often thrown into situations where they have to navigate this new world where 11-year-olds are more successful and put-together than they are. Brooke accidentally strikes up a friendship with a child Instagram makeup star whose face is so well painted that she looks like an adult. Cary decides he’s going to hang out with some “Instagays” (who are usually gay men who use the social media platform to post half-naked selfies) so he can boost his own social media following. In episode nine, the family, including Shannon’s Pat, try and sort through their family while on a plane for Chase’s album release party.
Social media is a huge well for comedy fodder these days, but The Other Two treats it as one more way to examine its characters’ insecurities. The show also, somehow, manages to not turn its nose up at that culture, striking yet another balance.
“I think it’s very easy for us to overlook that or be like ‘that’s so silly, this whole culture,’ because we don’t understand it and we didn’t create it,” Schneider said. “It was really important to us that it felt real and that we weren’t being disrespectful to it.”
The showrunners said that they used Walker as a great starting point for diving into social media celebrity. Walker, a 15-year-old internet celebrity who got big on Musica.ly (now known as Tik Tok), knows the world and knows that it’s sometimes over-the-top and ridiculous, but in an interview with Paste and other outlets, showed no disdain towards it all.
The Other Two follows this path, never showing these Insta-celebs to be cruel or distorted by the industry. In the Instagays scenario, for instance, Cary reveals he’s using the group and that just hurts their feelings. (They were nothing but nice to him!) In this regard, Cary is the villain because he didn’t deal with his own insecurities. Social media is nothing but background.
Through this balancing act, The Other Two somehow manages to still work, and it all comes back to the characters. It would’ve been easy to write Cary and Brooke as terrible people who just mooched off of their brother, making uncomfortable scenes like this cathartic. However, it’s always apparent that they love Chase and would do anything for him. It also would’ve been easy to make him a prima donna wrapped up in all his fame, but that isn’t the case either. The siblings will still get under a big blanket and comfort Chase as he sleeps. They still look out for his best interests and even after the season wraps up with Chase makes a jarring decision (no spoilers here!), they still love him.
“We thought it’s very easy if any of them were mean or villains or sold out each other or the kid became an asshole,” Schneider explained. “We definitely wanted to be in this pop culture world and make pop culture jokes, but at the heart of it we hope that the show is about the family and their dynamics. So that feels very universal and super relatable.”
The Other Two premieres on Comedy Central on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 10:30 p.m.
Carli Velocci is a culture and technology writer and editor in Los Angeles with bylines in Polygon, Vice, SYFY Wire, and anywhere else brave enough to publish her. You can talk to her about her objectively good opinions on Twitter @velocciraptor.