The Other Two review – a fabulous, scabrous sendup of Bieber-a-likes

How would you react if your baby brother became an overnight pop sensation? This comedy has heart, charm – and a staggering belly-laugh gag rate

Cary Dubek is a 30-year-old gay, still-aspiring actor. His sister Brooke was a dancer in her younger days. She is currently temping as a realtor, because it allows her to squat in the homes she is supposed to be showing. The Other Two (E4) is about their lives when their 13-year-old brother Chase becomes an overnight star after posting a music video (under the moniker Chase Dreams) for his song I Wanna Marry You at Recess.

You would be forgiven for assuming that what follows is a hailstorm of bitter gags, hard little pellets of sibling rivalry and resentment raining down for 20 minutes as their brother’s growing success throws Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke’s (Heléne Yorke) lack thereof into sharper and sharper relief.

And there are a few. But The Other Two is so much better, cleverer, so much more than that. It is that rarest of things – a comedy that does not mistake mean-spiritedness for satire. It takes aim only at specific things; and the right ones. The Bieber-a-like Chase (Case Walker) is not a monster – and nor is his mother (Molly Shannon), although she is certainly on the blinkered side of enthusiastic – but an essentially sweet kid, and Cary and Brooke’s primary reaction is bafflement at the speed of his rise and a growing urge to protect him as his manager gets busy binding his throat (prominent Adam’s apples are the kiss of death to teen heartthrobs), dying his tongue a more appealing pink and having him graduate from high school by phone.

The sardonic focus is on the ingredients of modern celebrity, the especially ephemeral, transactional nature of the online version, and the spectacularly unreflective cynicism of the adults who attach themselves to this new singing asset (“Some people are already calling him the next big white kid,” breathes one covetously). All of this, plus much else, is dissected with surgeon-like precision by the former SNL writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider. Their years of proximity to industry lies, madness, machinations and hypocrisies has paid dividends, but their real genius lies in keeping the main pairing likable – because they actually like and love each other – as well as scabrously funny.

Cary’s main professional problem when we first meet him is working out how to play the wordless part of Man Who Smells Fart straighter in an advert audition callback. “Otherwise,” explains his agent, Skip (the always wonderful Richard Kind), “he’s gay, he’s at a party, he’s smelling a fart – it’s a lot for the audience to digest in 30 seconds.” His main personal problem is his hot dude-bro roommate Matt (Andrew Ridings, so good in Tina Fey’s 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and here getting more of a chance to exercise his comic chops) who is straight but keeps kissing him – and, as the series goes on, more – but is, like, you know, totally straight.

Brooke is coming out of a long-term relationship, in which she didn’t have sex for the last year (“Because he kept dabbing,” she explains succinctly), and is surrounded by people who make her late-20s self feel like a busted crone-flush. At a publicity party organised by Chase’s manager, Streeter (whose assonance with Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun is presumably as uncoincidental as everything else in this meticulously honed and detailed series), she comes across three expressionless women younger than her who have already retired. “Your teens are for working,” one of them explains. “Your 20s are for resting.” “What are your 30s for?” asks a bewildered Brooke. “Making a global impact,” they reply in monotone unison.

Along with such neat but thorough skewerings of large issues such as Hollywood homophobia, ageism and all-round venality, The Other Two is full of small, lovely touches, like Justin Theroux’s apartment containing three saunas and a church but only one bedroom (the church wall’s crucifix is shaped like a T “because Justin believes in himself so much”). These keep the funny bubbling so furiously that the jokes themselves – which come in a different key from Brooklyn Nine-Nine but at a rate that would make that show’s gagmeisters stand and applaud – become almost a bonus.

As the 10-part series unfolds, it only gets richer. The siblings become more embroiled in Chase’s life and business. Brooke becomes his assistant because, as Streeter explains, “Fans love him for being real but now he’s too busy to be real so you have to be real for him.” Meanwhile Cary begins to experience the benefits as well as the costs of becoming tangentially famous because of Chase’s second hit, My Brother is Gay, And That’s OK!. The ruthless illogic of it all starts to make sense and masks begin to eat at faces.

It has heart, charm, steel, belly laughs and a gimlet eye. Get on it. I wanna marry it at recess.


Lucy Mangan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Women on the Verge review – a scabrous creation from Sharon Horgan that doesn’t quite hit the peaks
This forensic examination of the lives of three thirtysomething women veers too often into Bridget Jones territory, but it certainly has its moments

Lucy Mangan

11, Oct, 2018 @9:40 PM

Article image
Sally4Ever review – Julia Davis unleashes another comic monster
A singular mix of humiliation, emotional agony and bodily fluids skewers the viewer in exquisite agony

Lucy Mangan

25, Oct, 2018 @9:30 PM

Article image
Catastrophe review: a poignant finale full of tenderness and humour
The relationship comedy may have outgrown its original concept, but the superb writing keeps it going. Plus: the formulaic joy of One Born Every Minute

Rebecca Nicholson

05, Apr, 2017 @6:20 AM

Article image
Motherland review – hellish family fun no longer seems so bad
Christmas special brings more stress for Julia and the gang, with frantic festive prep, a school nativity and Amanda’s formal party to contend with

Ellen E Jones

23, Dec, 2020 @9:30 PM

Article image
Veep review – masterful comedy packed with the darkest of zingers
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is magnificent, and still furiously amoral, as the black-hearted political comedy enters its final term in office

Rebecca Nicholson

03, Apr, 2019 @9:45 PM

Article image
The Crew review – Netflix fails to find the funny side of Nascar
The old-fashioned humour of this Kevin James vehicle has its place, but a lack of depth and tired punchlines about millennials and vegetarians leave it lagging behind

Rebecca Nicholson

15, Feb, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Ghosts series three review – does the fearsome fright club need new blood?
Hard-drinking toff Barclay Beg-Chetwynde seems set to be the next member of the phantom troop, in the only TV show that would benefit from bumping more people off

Stuart Jeffries

09, Aug, 2021 @8:00 PM

Article image
Mum review – a cliched take on the maddening reality of being a mother
Lesley Manville suffuses her character with warmth and melancholy, but there is more to motherhood than ‘keep calm and carry on ironing’

Chitra Ramaswamy

21, Feb, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
This Way Up review – the worse things get, the better the jokes become
Co-starring Sharon Horgan, Aisling Bea’s drama brilliantly captures the humour and despair of a nervous breakdown

Lucy Mangan

08, Aug, 2019 @9:35 PM

Article image
No Activity review – nothing happens, but that’s the point of this hilarious cop comedy
This Australian show revolves around underemployed partners and best mates, detectives Hendy and Stokes and their somewhat risque blokey banter

Sam Wollaston

09, Sep, 2018 @10:20 PM