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5 Screenwriting Takeaways: HBO Max's hilarious comedy 'The Other Two'

October 11, 2021
3 min read time

The Other Two is very adept at turning tragedy into comedy. In its second season, the half-hour comedy serves up both with a healthy side of pathos. In season one, audiences met Brooke and Cary Dudek (played by Heléne York and Drew Tarver respectively), who watched as their mother and brother rose to fame through a very average talk show and YouTube music hobby-turned-empire while they both slaved away their young adulthood looking for their own version of fame.

In season two, the pitfalls, perils, highs and lows of fame — or at least fame-adjacent — come for the siblings; and it’s very fun to watch. 

1. Comedic chemistry.  Much of this show hinges on the comedic chemistry between Brooke and Cary. They understand each other as only two siblings of a mother who just found fame can. They also wield jokes and jabs as fast as 30 Rock, but with more droll, dry and sometimes understated humor à la Seinfeld. They are written as sharp-witted people with a dimwitted side, which is undeniably a hard line to walk, but York and Tarver execute both sides of the line beautifully. 

2. A premise made for heightening.  One of the great joys of season two is getting to watch Molly Shannon’s character of Pat Dudek embrace her fame. She doesn’t take the role of leading a group of middle-aged women for granted. Her heroine in life was Rachel Ray, and when she says she’s now living the dream as a talk show host, you believe her. Her earnesty shines through as she brings on guests she ran into at the Duane Reed (that she mistook for Mayim Bialik). This show-within-a-show set-up allows for tons of opportunities to heighten both Brooke and Cary’s misery and hopes while they live life fame-adjacent. It’s a fun window used to underscore the fact that fame isn’t for everyone and it’s a constant walk on a tightrope. 

3. Open to deep flaws.  While this season brings some pathos and subtle character arc changes for both Cary and Brooke, this also ain’t no Ted Lasso. This is a show that enjoys exposing character flaws and is open to the despicable side of people. But it’s a show that has to be. One cannot examine fame without also examining the ugly underbelly. People seeking fame for fame’s sake are not the easiest to root for, but The Other Two manages to make Cary and Brooke likable enough that you want to see them succeed just as much as you want to sometimes revel in their very funny failures. Life, and life in the spotlight, is not black and white, and there’s much comedy to be mined in the greys. 

4. The comfort of commitment.  As Cary becomes more comfortable in his own skin this season, he’s also forced to examine what he really wants out of love as he enters a committed relationship with his first boyfriend ever, Jess (Gideon Glick). The couple interacts with a variety of other gay couples, causing Cary to question just exactly what kind of gay man he is, all the while embracing relationship questions everyone faces: Does commitment make me happy? Is this really love? And do I put career above this relationship or vice versa?
 

5. Just like us.  There is an interesting theme in this season that’s underscored in an early episode. Molly Shannon’s Pat is inundated by one particular fan who is obsessed with the fact that they are exactly the same. Of course, they are not, but it’s an interesting lens under which to examine why people star worship, why some people can handle fame, and why it’s something even worth pursuing. Shannon’s character, perhaps because she has years on her children, seems to acutely understand people are just looking for someone to connect to. Perhaps that’s why she’s been rewarded over her kids. She approaches her stardom with pathos and she never stops to say hello to any fan. It will be interesting to see if the show continues, if this also leads to a level of destruction, or further elevation for her character.


Final Takeaway: Perhaps what else is interesting about this show is that those seeking fame are often never satisfied. It gives the show so much ground to mine even as Brooke and Cary find some levels of empathy within their struggle. There is also an abundance of weirdness that comes with any level of fame and that drives much comedic joy as Cary attempts to embrace hosting and Brooke continues to put on her manager “costumes.” It allows for the show to continue pushing its fun balance of dark and light, funny and moving. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

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