The Unlikely Heir To ’30 Rock’ Has Emerged
Count me surprised that The Other Two, a Comedy Central show about a smarmy teen pop-star, has emerged as the best comedy on TV. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. The show’s co-creators, Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, previously were the head writers on Saturday Night Live. Who else has held that job? Adam McKay, Seth Meyers, and Tina Fey. But I still didn’t see The Other Two coming. It’s the sharpest and funniest episodic comedy show since 30 Rock went off the air. Lorne Michaels serves as executive producer. This thing has been set up on a tee.
The shows share a lot of qualities. Both take place in New York, and mostly in Manhattan. They both satirize the entertainment business. They mix goofy relationship mishaps with fake ads and music videos. Like Liz Lemon, The Other Two’s main character, Cary, finds himself looking for love in all the wrong places. But unlike Liz Lemon, he doesn’t have his dream job. His resumé is topped by the role of “man who smells fart at a party”. Heléne Yorke, as the secondary lead, Brooke, gives off a very Jane Krakowski anything-for-a-laugh vibe. She dances, too!
The Other Two’s simple premise reflects some complex concerns, at least for New Yorkers of a certain age and professional inclination. Chase Dubek, a sweet blank-slate 13-year-old from suburban Ohio, becomes an overnight YouTube sensation with a viral song and video called “I Wanna Marry U At Recess”. His perpetually failing older siblings, Cary and Brooke, a wannabe actor and failed dancer, respectively, find themselves forced to deal with–and possibly profit from–”ChaseDreams” and his runaway success. What happens when your little brother achieves all your ambitions without even trying? Cary and Brooke live that nightmare. And they also end up living with their brother in Justin Theroux’s apartment.
Forget Gen-X feeling the Millennials breathing down their necks. That ship has left the port of call. The Other Two’s heroes are Millennials trying to live in a Gen-Z world. They’re trapped between Chase’s upper management, who make all kinds of stupid business decisions that somehow work out, and a rampaging horde of youth who live deep inside a social media bubble. Their relevance vanished before it even existed.
Just like how 30 Rock’s gang of idiots lived inside a TV fantasy, The Other Two’s cast finds itself trapped in an endless Instagram Story. In this world, influencers retire at age 19, take their 20s off, and use their 30s to “make a global impact.” One episode set at a middle-school dance, features posters from antiquated movies like…Anchorman and Knocked Up. The theme is “Old Hollywood.” Like the best jokes, that one hurts a little.
But like with 30 Rock, The Other Two also has a warm heart, with a caring family at the core. As the leads, Drew Tarver and Yorke are never anything less than lovable. And the producers have surrounded them with an A-plus supporting cast, including vintage performances from Molly Shannon as their long-suffering mother, Ken Marino as Chase’s clueless and shallow manager, Wanda Sykes as a record-company executive, and Richard Kind, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cousin Andy himself, as Cary’s agent. The adult characters may be fools, but the actors who play them are comic geniuses. Because of that, The Other Two achieves a kind of effortless satirical pop perfection.
Who knows how long they’ll be able to draw out this conceit? Chase won’t be a teenager forever. But Comedy Central renewed The Other Two after only three weeks on the air. Can a ChaseDreams live show be far behind? All us old people want to sing along.