It would have been easy to make The Other Two — about a pair of adult siblings whose little brother becomes a viral superstar — a spoof fueled by bitterness and snark. Instead, former SNL head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider have created something completely unexpected: An endearing family comedy masquerading as a legitimately hilarious pop culture satire.
When his homemade music video “I Wanna Marry U at Recess” explodes online, 13-year-old ChaseDreams (Case Walker) is thrust into the media meat-grinder of instant fame, with his excitement-starved mom, Pat (Molly Shannon), happily along for the ride. It’s all a bit befuddling for Chase’s older brother Cary (Drew Tarver), a struggling actor whose latest audition is for a cat litter commercial, and sister Brooke (The Good Fight’s Heléne Yorke), a former professional dancer-turned-opinionated, unemployed millennial. (Yes, both she and Cary qualify as millennials — they looked it up.)
In one of the writers’ smartest moves, Chase is neither a buffoon nor an entitled brat — he’s just a trusting, slightly dimwitted kid. Though Cary and Brooke are envious of Chase’s success, they want to protect their brother from the destructive apparatus of modern celebrity. Standing in the residual glare of Chase’s spotlight, Cary and Brooke also see their own imperfect lives in stark relief: Cary has complicated feelings about his sexuality, which are exacerbated by ChaseDreams’ second hit, “My Brother’s Gay.” (When the season ends, Kelly and Schneider, who co-wrote SNL’s Emmy-nominated song “(Do It On My) Twin Bed,” should release a soundtrack of Chase’s silly-catchy singles.) Brooke, meanwhile, has never set any real goals for herself, beyond vowing to “see 50 d—s” over the summer. But when it becomes clear that Chase needs an adult to watch over him — his daft manager Streeter (Ken Marino) is desperate for his client’s approval, while the recently-widowed Pat is busy enjoying her “year of yes” — Brooke realizes she may have to grow up.
The Other ensemble is across-the-board excellent. Yorke commits fully to the opportunistic, selfish Brooke, and can make even the most over-the-top scenario (e.g. crashing a funeral and calling the deceased a “sex pervert”) funny. Tarver resembles Jason Bateman both physically and comedically, bringing an ace deadpan and understated charm to the emotionally-adrift Cary. As a Musical.ly phenom himself, Walker is experienced with the world of internet fame, which may be why he’s so skilled at blending the sweet cluelessness of a child with the savvy of a teen raised on celebrity culture. Wanda Sykes offers bonus brilliance as Chase’s mercenary record-label publicist, while Arrow’s Josh Segarra is delightful as Brooke’s ex Lance, a dopey wannabe shoe designer who still says “Damn, Daniel” and may be the only happy person in the bunch.
With its blend of biting showbiz commentary and earned emotional moments, The Other Two is a goofy gem, a modern-day fable about the healing power of other people’s fame. Grade: A-
The Other Two premieres Jan. 24 at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.