Living in the shadow of a younger sibling is not ideal. But when that younger sibling is a teen pop sensation? Now that’s the stuff of nightmares.
Such is the concept of HBO Max’s “The Other Two,” created by former “Saturday Night Live” head writers Sarah Schneider and Chris Kelly. In the series, millennials Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary Dubek (Drew Tarver) grapple with the sudden fame of their 13-year-old brother, Chase (Case Walker), whose adorable debut song, “Marry U at Recess,” has led to huge success.
As the show’s title would suggest, “The Other Two” centers around Brooke, a former competitive dancer with lackluster career prospects, and Cary, a struggling actor, as the two older siblings attempt to make names for themselves in New York City. While the show’s premise magnifies the infuriating concept of being outshined by a much younger sibling, what’s refreshing about “The Other Two” is that there’s never a real sense of jealousy or animosity. Brooke and Cary are genuinely supportive of Chase — and each other. Moreover, what starts as a harmless attempt to ride Chase’s coattails turns into beautiful processes of self-discovery for the older sibs.
When we first meet Brooke, she’s working as a real estate agent squatting in unsold apartments. When she takes on the humiliating role as Chase’s assistant, she realizes she would make a good manager. At the end of Season 2, a running joke about wanting to represent Alessia Cara turns into a fruitful chance encounter with the “Scars to Your Beautiful” singer in a hotel sauna.
When we first meet Cary, he’s auditioning for a part in a commercial named Man at Party Who Smells Fart. He soon graduates to hosting internet shows such as “The Gay Minute” and “Age Net Worth Feet,” and eventually, he lands a role in a major movie. But Cary’s more interesting story arc pertains to his sexuality. At the beginning of Season 1, his most intimate relationship is with his muscled roommate who insists he’s straight. In Season 2, Cary gets serious with his first boyfriend, Jess (Gideon Glick), but as someone who came out of the closet later in life, he begins lamenting all those fun years he missed before settling down. He encounters a flock of Instagays and a hilariously mortifying storyline about a “hole pic” that traces back to him and goes viral. It marks a surprisingly wholesome (pun intended) turn for Cary, who learns to loosen up at a gay bar as he reaches new levels of celebrity.
The series is greatly enhanced by supporting players Ken Marino, Wanda Sykes and Molly Shannon, who plays Dubek matriarch, Pat. In Season 2, Brooke and Cary are once again relegated to “The Other Two” as their mother, too, becomes a celebrity, hosting a daytime talk show.
The first 19 episode titles begin with either “Chase” or “Pat” — a nod to the name of the show — which makes the Season 2 finale, “Brooke & Cary Go to a Fashion Show,” all the more gratifying. Brooke and Cary are coming into their own and not at the expense of their popstar brother and Ellen-esque mom.
While “The Other Two” is far from the first show to satirize the entertainment industry, its commentary on modern phenomena keeps the series edgy and current. In one episode, Brooke impersonates a Real Housewife in an attempt to take red carpet photos, which Cary later Photoshops with a Getty Images watermark. In another, Brooke desperately campaigns for Variety’s “30 Under 30” at age 31. (For the record, our roundup of rising innovators in Hollywood is called New Leaders.)
While Brooke proudly declares early on, “We must live every day like it’s the last day Chase is famous,” the show generally avoids the type of cynicism one would expect from it. After all, what keeps “The Other Two” grounded is the universality of chasing dreams, no matter how much we’re willing to compromise them.