This article contains spoilers for the first two episodes of The Other Two season 2.
We expect a lot from our TV comedies nowadays.
Maybe it’s because the mid-2010s saw an increasing number of talented comedians trying their hands at being auteurs. Or maybe it’s because the Emmy Awards categorized basically anything with half-hour episodes as a comedy, regardless of their Jokes Per Minute (JPM) status. But whatever the reason, many sitcoms are expected to ask us to examine the human experience while making us laugh at the same time.
Sometimes, however, you just want to laugh so hard that you’re barely able to remember you even have a corporeal form, let alone comprehend life’s many mysteries. Thank God then for shows like HBO Max’s The Other Two. The Other Two comes from former SNL writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider and stars Drew Tarver and Heléne Yorke as brother and sister Cary and Brooke Dubek, who struggle with their status as “the other two” to their younger brother Chase a.k.a. ChaseDreams (Case Walker), a burgeoning pop superstar.
The show’s well-received first season debuted on Comedy Central all the way back in the “before times” of early 2019. After a very lengthy wait, the first two episodes of season 2 premiered Aug. 26, on HBO Max. This time around, Cary and Brooke aren’t only in the shadow of their uber famous younger brother (who has “retired” to fulfill his month-long dream of attending NYU) but also their mother, Pat Dubek (Molly Shannon) who now hosts her own wildly popular Ellen-style daytime talk show.
“We just thought it was a nice way to one-up season one, where it’s what would happen if you’re playing second fiddle to your little brother? Now you’re playing third fiddle to your own mother. Jesus Christ,” Kelly tells Den of Geek.
When The Other Two season 2 picks up, Cary and Brooke are both indeed occupying third fiddle status in the Dubek family but that doesn’t mean they aren’t on their grind. Cary, a longtime struggling actor, has picked up some new jobs. Unfortunately the vast majority of them are hosting gigs. In episode one alone, Cary hosts an online series called “Gay News”, which appears to be wall-to-wall Laura Dern coverage and works a red carpet for “Age, Net Worth, Feet” – the one site bold enough to ask the only three questions anyone cares about. Brook, meanwhile, is trying to find the next big young music star. This quest leads her to reach the literal end of Tik Tok and also to type “young boy hot find now” into a Google search bar.
While season 2’s first episode is an excellent reintroduction to The Other Two’s comedic sensibilities, its second, “Pat Connects with Her Fans”, is something approaching a modern sitcom masterpiece. This installment picks up with Pat Dubek running a distinctly daytime TV gambit in which she invites closeted young gay men to publicly come out to their traditionally masculine fathers, get their begruding acceptance, and then receive a $25,000 check from the studio for their troubles. Naturally this recurring segment quickly becomes an exploitable money-making opportunity for a gay couple with a big disparity in age.
“I remember it as something maybe Ellen did a few times on her show where a sweet, young gay boy would come out to his dad and then his dad wasn’t that homophobic. And so they fly into New York and are given $10,000,” Kelly says. “We liked the idea of every gay man in town would be like ‘I want $10,000. So I’m going to pretend my husband is my dad and we’re going to go to New York and get $10,000.”
When Cary and his milquetoast new boyfriend Jess (Gideon Glick) encounter the “father and son” duo at lunch, they offer to take them around the big city (including neighborhood “secrets” like The Highline and Big Gay Ice Cream Shop) to show them that being gay isn’t so scary. All the while, the fully sexually liberated couple must continue the ruse of being a gay son and a disapproving father, lest the son of the talk show host they just defrauded realize the truth.
“I just love how clueless (Cary) is and how earnestly he tries to comfort this younger gay that he thinks needs his guidance. And that younger gay has been married for six years,” Schneider says.
“It just struck us as the perfect sitcom balance, even if there’s some deeper shit going on there,” Kelly adds.
The “deeper shit” that Kelly refers to is what perfectly complements the sitcom-y premise and makes the episode shine. Cary Dubek is a peculiar creature. While openly gay (thanks to his brother releasing a chart-topping hit called “My Brother’s Gay and That’s Okay!”), Cary still isn’t completely comfortable in his own sexual skin. He was able to come out to his father, but his father never fully accepted him before his death. In season 1 of the show, Cary developed a crush on his straight roommate as pining after someone who is unavailable was far more preferable than taking a real risk.
Now Cary has taken another step forward in dating a gay man but that gay man is just…fine. He’s fine. Cary has forced himself into something safe rather than really exploring his sexuality once again.
“He is deciding he’s marrying this man, basically,” Kelly says. “You know what I mean? He’s kind of in a very safe relationship. And you can tell that he’s maybe not a hundred percent for me for this guy. I think he likes that this is a safe little picture, perfect relationship he can present to mommy and daddy. If daddy was alive, he could tell daddy, ‘Yeah, I’m gay. But, look, this is kind of… it’s harmless.’”
“Let’s organize this. It’s basically a straight relationship, but it’s gay,” Schneider adds. “All those kinds of gross things you do to try to make your mom and dad approve. (Cary) is trying to do a G-rated version. He’s not really following his instincts. He’s not really following where sexuality would truly take him.”
Ah, so on second thought The Other Two is just like those conscientious other comedies we expect so much from after all. Come for the “Age, Net Worth, and Feet” jokes and stay for the touching exploration of one young man’s sexual journey.
The Other Two season 2 will premiere two new episodes every Thursday on HBO Max.