“The Other Two” Has Quietly Become One of HBO’s Best Comedies

The show has been taking some big swings in its third season

June 1, 2023 6:00 am
The Other Two season 3
Season three sees "The Other Two" taking more creative risks.

The Other Two the smart, satirical show centering on the adult siblings of a teen pop star — was always funny. The first two seasons took jabs at everything from millennial mega-churches to influencer culture, but the tone of the show always stayed fairly light on its feet. Not anymore. Season three is still as witty as ever, but much like industry vampires when they realize a young music sensation has just turned 18, this new season has some pretty sharp fangs

The overarching structure of The Other Two follows the fame cycle of the different members of the Dubek family. Season one focused on teenager Chase’s (Case Walker) meteoric rise to stardom, season two followed mother Pat (an excellent Molly Shannon) as she became a host of a popular daytime talk show, and season three finds adult children Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Heléne Yorke) seemingly living successful lives, though under the surface they can’t quite shake feeling unfulfilled. For Brooke, that means trying to be a “good person” even though it is absolutely torturing her, and for Cary, it means sacrificing his friendships (and sometimes morals) to become a bigger star. 

In the seven episodes available to critics, the breadth of topics covered is more profound, and it’s exciting to see the show explore these new terrains. The satire is as sharp as ever, but it expands to things like alpha-male billionaires, corporations and their performative allyship, and the isolation that comes with mega-fame. The jokes are a little darker, more pointed, more critical of their targets, which are often the Dubeks themselves. If the first two seasons focused on a normal family figuring out the weird mechanics of the fame machine, season three finds that same family so embroiled in it that they’ve lost touch with the things that kept them grounded in normalcy. 

On a broader level, the writers made bolder artistic choices with aesthetic tricks and more surreal plotlines, and those big swings certainly pay off. This season doesn’t just feel different than earlier ones, it looks different, and that keeps the show evolving rather than stagnating in its comfort zone. There are fun nods to everything from Pleasantville to Romeo + Juliet, and the season also features some really exciting guest stars. Though perhaps even more important than the new characters is the attention given to returning ones. Side characters like Brooke’s on-off boyfriend Lance (Josh Segarra) and Cary’s best friend Curis (Brandon Scott Jones) have bigger, meatier roles, and they both step into those more nuanced roles beautifully. 

What really sets this season apart is it feels like consequences are crashing down on the Dubeks with no clear resolution. There are scenes in the new season with no jokes, no humor, and no neat compromise — just pure emotions and brutal honesty. In many cases, Brooke and Cary are unable to see how much they’ve changed until they’re in too deep, and the hurt they’ve caused others suddenly crashes over them like a tidal wave. The new season proves that the writers are just as skilled at creating emotionally complex narratives as they are crafting jokes about formulaic procedural dramas or the absolute agony of typing out your Hulu password with your remote. 

In sitcoms, things rarely change. It’s easier if we just see the same personalities play through different iterations of the same “conflict, resolution, conflict, resolution” pattern. It’s why we love Friends and Seinfeld and The Office. There is a comfort in knowing that the characters and stories, no matter what season you tune into, will by and large be the same. What The Other Two is doing is pushing the boundaries of that formula. The characters in this new season are very different from their season one counterparts, and the conflicts they deal with are unique to their new personalities. The show proves that it’s more realistic, and ultimately more fulfilling, to go through changes, for the better or worse.

The Other Two is streaming on Max.

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