Two-and-a-half years after Season 1 ended, The Other Two finally returns with new episodes. And the most important thing on our minds is whether or not the gayest show on TV is able to squeeze in a Matt Damon “f-slur” joke before Season 2 premieres on HBO Max August 26th.
Alas, no, but taking on that kind of celebrity culture absurdity is one of the reasons fans fell hard for the series when it first aired on Comedy Central. Co-created by Saturday Night Live writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, the premise of Season 1 is misleadingly simple: Two adult siblings in various stages of stagnation find their lives unmoored when their teen brother becomes an unlikely, YouTube–fueled pop star.
Along the way, there are jokes about everything from Instagays to straight women’s disturbing comfort level with that same “f-slur.” But the show transcended the motor-mouthed pop culture enthusiast dialogue to become a darkly witty, unlikely valentine to the bonds of family.
Season 2 could easily have been a rehash of what worked in the first eight episodes, but instead Kelly and Schneider upped the stakes considerably. The second season finds ChaseDreams (Case Walker) tweaking his Bieber-esque persona by renouncing pop stardom to pursue his new dream of attending college (with whiffs of James Franco schadenfreude), while the Dubek siblings find themselves a few rungs higher on the ladder of success than when we left them throwing empty beer bottles in Times Square at the end of Season 1. “Gay Brother” Cary (Drew Tarver) is now an on-camera personality in a committed relationship, though he still can’t afford to buy enough brightly colored or boldly patterned shirts, while Brooke (Heléne Yorke) is finding success as their mother’s manager, now that Pat (the incomparable Molly Shannon) is a successful talkshow host.
We knew Pat was going to take over the airwaves from the final shot of Season 1, but was this season planned from the start?
Nope. “[It was] kind of like, ‘Let’s challenge ourselves’ and then we were like, ‘It sucks to be challenged,’ ” Schneider says with a laugh over a Zoom call. “Because when we started on this season, we were like, ‘Now we have to figure out all the things that we set up at the end of last season.’ I didn’t really think about how they would be executed!”
Flawlessly, as it turns out, because Season 2 is even weirder and funnier and sadder than what came before. That was by design, of course.
“We wanted to see where our characters could go and how they could grow and put new obstacles in their path and change their status quo and see what new challenges come from that,” Schneider says. “So we as writers and creators weren’t repeating the same dynamics. We’re eager to take them somewhere so we can experience it with them.”
And as Kelly points out, for all their outrageous behavior and misguided choices, Brooke and Cary are often the smartest people in the room. “They may do really stupid thing, but they’re smart people. And for them not to recognize that they’re just doing the same episode over and over again, that would be frustrating to watch.”
“The idea of this season is that they are making strides, but [there’s] this idea that if you just get that next thing, if you just achieve that next goal, if you change this one thing about yourself, then you’re done, you’ll be happy. You’ll be settled and that’ll be the rest of your days. And these characters — in their sexuality and their personal lives and their careers — are feeling that that might not be the case. And we liked being able to put them in a position to experience those new highs and lows,” Schneider adds.
The key to what Schenider admits was “a lofty idea” this season is the cast of The Other Two. And having spent a season working with Yorke and Tarver, both co-creators were excited to tailor scripts to their strengths.
“Drew and Heléne both have the ability to be very wacky and broad and the obvious elephant in the room, and then also call it out at the same time,” Kelly points out.
“When we pitched something [this season], we were either like, ‘Yes, I can picture Heléne doing that. And that is funny.’ Or, ‘Actually, I don’t think that character would do that,’ ” Schneider says. “But then the caveat is that on set when you’ve pictured it so deeply in someone’s voice and Heléne wouldn’t do it how I pictured her doing it. Then I’d be like: The note is, ‘Heléne, I guess be more Heléne in this?'”
One of the true delights of Yorke and Traver’s performances are their skill at tossing off hilariously dark takes on pop culture, from Yorke defending her choice of attending a Halloween party as Terri Schiavo “before” to Tarver wringing about seven different layers from the line “We stan a new kwern” in the first episode of this season. And though you may never be able to look at Justin Theroux on a motorcycle the same way again (his “fake” apartment will never be forgotten), all of it comes from a place of love.
“Whenever we’re poking fun at something, we try and make sure there’s at least like a kernel of truth,” Schneider says. “We wouldn’t pick a random celebrity just to take them down for fun. There’s always something in it that feels at least true, so it doesn’t just feel like a hit for no reason.”
But even as they go for broke with the comedy, The Other Two has a strain of melancholy that has only deepened this season.
“We want the fast-paced, pop-culture comedy. But we really do write the humanity first and foremost. Ultimately it’s about the characters,” Schneider says. Then adds, “Behind all the stupid there’s usually melancholy.”