When The Other Two wrapped its first season on Comedy Central, it did so with a giddy, tantalizing twist. This week, the acclaimed comedy comes to HBO Max for its long-awaited second season, jumping right back into the action with Molly Shannon’s Pat Dubek now a bona fide star in her own right, and it’s almost like no time has passed at all. Except it has—it’s been nearly two-and-a-half years since we last saw the Dubeks, and The Other Two’s had to contend with the forces of nature to make its way back to our screens.
Sure, Case Walker’s ChaseDreams may look more like a young adult than when we last saw him flop on the VMAs stage, but growth spurts were the least of creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider’s worries. Production for season two of The Other Two began in early 2020, but filming was abruptly halted due to the growing urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though they didn’t want time to pass them by, Kelly and Schneider were adamant no one return to set until they felt it could be done with every precaution in place. (Cue the “In this climate?” GIFs). Filming finally resumed earlier this winter, leaving Kelly and Schneider with no choice but cut together scenes that were, at times, filmed a full year apart.
It’s a testament to The Other Two’s sharp and insightful writing that, even though its zippy, pop culture-quipping dialogue was written some time ago, it feels as fresh as ever. Kelly and Schneider were determined to craft a season that doesn’t just rely on what’s worked before, one that continues to put its ever-evolving characters in new—and often awkward—situations. As Brooke (Heléne York) and Cary (Drew Tarver) once again contend with being the nominal “other two,” they, too, realize there’s no coasting by the second time around.
In conversation with The A.V. Club, Kelly and Schneider share how The Other Two’s second season came together, detailing the long journey from 2019 to now, from Comedy Central to HBO Max. They also dive into the inception of Pat!: The Pat Dubek Show, what they hoped to say about the daytime TV world, and how the unique setting became yet another avenue for the series to push its hopelessly hopeful protagonists toward some kind of growth.
The A.V. Club: It’s been over two years since the first season wrapped, and I know the pandemic is responsible for delaying things, but, once you finally got back to set this year, it’s all seemingly come together rather quickly.
Sarah Schneider: We wrote the show in 2019, we began production on the show in the beginning of 2020, we shot 21 days of the show, and then it was March 13 and we shut down for an entire year. We basically just didn’t want to come back before we felt totally safe doing so. And so we started up again in January of 2021, wrapped in April or May, and now here we are in post about to kick it out to the world. [Laughs.] So that was our crazy couple of years!
Chris Kelly: Yeah, it is weird that we waited two-and-a-half years, and then to be rushing right now to get it done. [Laughs.] It’s been a wild ride, but we’re excited for it to finally be out. And it’s so bizarre, too, because, like Sarah said, we got shut down on March 13th, 2020. And we had shot so out of order, so we had little bits and pieces of episodes finished—yeah, so try and find out which scenes are from which year! We were in the middle of shooting a full musical promo for Pat’s show. Molly Shannon was doing a song-and-dance number, and, in between takes of that, we were like, “Guys, get to the airport! COVID is coming—Tom Hanks has it!” We were shooting in Central Park, so, any time you see Central Park on the show, that was that day.
AVC: So, what you’re saying is, when the show cuts to a new scene, and, suddenly, everyone looks exhausted by the weight of the world, then we’ll know that was shot more recently?
CK: Yeah! When there’s no light behind the eyes, that was post-COVID. [Laughs.]
AVC: Given the long delay between writing and filming, were there specific jokes—or even larger elements of the season—that you decided to rewrite?
SS: We feel like our show is so “of the moment”—it feels topical, and we’re commenting on pop culture—so we actually talked a lot about whether or not we needed to make changes, to reflect our completely changed landscape. But we decided to keep the scripts as they were. So then it was sort of nice for us to be able to shoot this show that’s sort of living in a world before, or like it’s running parallel.
CK: The season is so serialized and we were shooting so out of order, so it wasn’t even possible. I mean, the train already left the station. We were shooting scenes from the finale when we got shut down. It just exists in a beautiful world pre-COVID, or without COVID.
AVC: Are there ways where writing for HBO Max—a streaming service versus a cable channel—impacted your approach to the season?
CK: We had written the season for Comedy Central. We didn’t actually make the move to HBO Max until we after we got shut down—it was like mid-pandemic when we found out we were switching. So everything was sort of baked in, the season was what the season was. I think the thing that was sort of fortuitous was, we just had more time. We really wrote a dense season, and we were sort of like, “Oh shit, how the fuck are we going to fit all of this into 21-minute [episodes]?” We were genuinely like, “How will this actually work?” So we hope that the new episodes aren’t, like, super long or bloated or anything now, but it gave us a little bit more wiggle room to kind of focus on more characters, to take bigger swings in the back half of the season, to deepen other characters in a way that we may not have had time for.
Also, we always talk about how we want the show to feel fast and zany and pop culture-y, but we don’t want it to not feel grounded. Like, we don’t want it to feel like our characters are cartoons, or sketch characters. We want to have quiet moments, and moments where they can catch their breath, and it’s not just a mile a minute and then the credits roll. So I think this extra time on HBO Max is allowing that to happen, thank god.
SS: We also didn’t have to do our “fuck pass,” which is where we would normally have to search for “fuck” in our scripts, and it’s usually there, like, 10-plus times. [Laughs.] Because things were going to have to be bleeped, so we had to be [selective] because we didn’t want the whole show to be bleeps. And now it’s like—
CK: Now it’s all we say!
AVC: While we’re talking language, I do have to ask you guys about the use of what Matt Damon would refer to as the “F-slur” on this show. Notably, Kate Berlant’s Pitzi Pyle uses it in the first season—in a moment that’s had a life of its own on Twitter—and we hear it again in the season two premiere. Why has it been something you wanted to include in the show, and did you have to fight to keep it in for either season?
CK: It was a fight the first season, but only because, you know, in general they want to not say the word “faggot” on TV and they’re nervous that it seems homophobic, of course. And so I think there was the initial hesitancy of not wanting to put that on the air. We did have to fight for it, in just a normal “Standards & Practices” way. But it was really important to us, we really wanted it, and so we had to keep pushing it up the ladder. And, eventually, we got an email with a bunch of people that [had a subject line like,] “The F-Word Call.” It was clear that we were going to have to all get on a call to try to talk about it, and I think everyone kind of folded at that moment. It was like, “We don’t really want to live through that call, so let’s just let them say it.” And then, the second season, I think maybe they knew, or trusted, what we wanted to do with it. We’re not just using it flippantly and, like, I’m gay—we’re doing it with a purpose. So we don’t just let it fly, willy nilly. There’s a reason when we use it, if that makes sense.
SS: I am the one who pitches it all the time though.
CK: Yeah it would be in it a lot more—I get most of them out, and then Sarah’s like, “Please can I have three!” [Laughs.]
AVC: To talk more specifically about season two: The big change this time around—hinted at the tail-end of the last episode—is that Cary and Brooke’s mom, Pat, is famous now too. When did you decide that’s where you wanted to take things moving forward?
SS: I think we always talked about wanting to end the [first] season on a move that would completely change the dynamic of the family. Because—if we got to do another season—we knew we didn’t want to do the same thing again: Chase continues to be famous, they continue to be “the other two.” We wanted to force ourselves to tell a changed story. So, when you have Molly Shannon, what are you going to do, not make Molly Shannon the star? [Laughs.] But it just made sense that someone else in their family would now take over the spotlight, and that would change their dynamic. And it sort of made us feel the same way the characters felt this season, which was that they don’t really want to do this the same way again. They already did this with their brother, and now they’re doing it with their mother—like, it can’t just be this until the day they die. So they feel very galvanized in this season to reject that as their status and figure things out for themselves.
AVC: Are there elements of fame that you were excited to explore with Pat that maybe couldn’t have with with Chase?
CK: Our main approach is that we wanted to be able to make fun of it, but also not, like, shit on it, if that makes sense? With Chase[’s music career,] we think there’s so much about that world that is funny and ridiculous and stupid, but also, early on one of the characters was like, “I don’t not get it.” Like, you do get that he’s got something, that there’s talent there of some kind, why young girls like him—he’s serving some kind of purpose.
And it’s the same thing with Pat having her own talk show. Sarah and I aren’t big “talk show heads,” but we see the value in it. So we wanted to make fun of that world, that ecosystem, and the types of people that watch talk shows every single day. Because that is funny, and there’s a lot to poke fun at, but it does serve a purpose. Throughout the season, you do see that Molly’s character has value to all these women. She’s like a friend in their home when they need one. She’s aspirational, but she feels like an everywoman, and she allows a bunch of different people to see themselves in her. So, like last season with Chase, sure, we kind of make fun of it, but we also validate it.
AVC: Knowing you’re not necessarily big daytime talk show people, I’m curious what influences you drew from to shape the world of Pat!
SS: I think just because we aren’t super entrenched in that world, it’s sort of the version of it that has seeped so clearly into the culture, and then just marrying that idea with Molly Shannon as an actress, knowing what she would be like as a person if she were going to host a show—it’s just an absolute tornado of chaos and joy.
In the first season, Chase released a music video, “My Brother’s Gay,” and that made Cary come to terms a little bit with his relationship with his straight roommate—it influences his life and his sexuality in such a deep, meaningful way, even though it was so stupid. So we were interested, in this season, in thinking of these new ways that Pat’s show now can impact their lives in real and grounded ways, even though the setup is very ridiculous and outlandish in this daytime TV world.
CK: Yeah, we wanted to parody that world, but we also wanted to use it as, like, “How can her show—or something about her show—propel Cary and Brooke’s own stories?” Like, when Brooke is very lonely, she clearly books a bunch of guests on her mom’s show just so she can [try to] date them. In another episode, there’s a couple that are guests on Pat! that Cary ends up spending the day with. So it’s more of a springboard for us to then go follow “the other two” on their journeys.
AVC: Speaking of “the other two,” part of the joy of rewatching the first season was realizing just how far they’ve come over the course of ten episodes. The Other Two actually lets Brooke and Cary grow, and that can feel rare for half-hour sitcoms. With that in mind, what ways can we expect them to evolve this time around?
CK: I mean, that’s nice to hear because we really care about that. I think there was a vibe early on where it was like, “Oh, their little brother is famous and it can just be like a hundred episodes of that.” But we cared more about—like, if I was Cary or Brooke, I would take anything that happened to me and want to apply it moving forward. We want them to learn and grow and change.
So, in season two—without getting too deep into it, because a lot happens in the back half of the season—it’s not just “second verse, same as the first.” Now that they have two experiences with a family member being famous, they’re not just going to go through this shit again.” It galvanizes them to be like, “What do I need to do to find my own success, to find my own happiness?” But then also, “as I start to find my own success, does it make me happy?” Cary, when we first met him in the pilot, he was clearly a little self-hate-y, clearly had a lot of internalized homophobia, and was just fully in love with his straight roommate who will never give him anything in return. This season, he has a boyfriend, so there’s progress there—he’s like, “I’m with a real-life gay man. I have sex with this gay man. I am better. I am improving.” And it is true that that’s progress and he is improving, but you can still see little cracks in the facade. You can see that he does still have a long ways to go. We wanted to play with these characters who are continuing to learn and grow—that work’s never done.
SS: As they grow and change, their obstacles grow and change.
CK: Same with Brooke, working in the entertainment industry. It’s something she was very excited by at the end of season one. But then, once she is actually living that life she fantasized about, the reality is different than that fantasy. What does it actually look like when you get your dream, or a version of your dream? What does it actually feel like? Does it let you down in some ways?
SS: Yeah, she’s been working her ass off, scrambling and scraping by to figure out what she wanted to do, and what she’s good at. She found it, and she refuses to let that go, but she’s so used to that being a front that Imposter Syndrome kicks in, and we’re exploring that side of things.
AVC: And then there’s Chase, who it seems will have some growing up of his own to do this season. Though it’s only been a month in the show’s timeline, I think it’s pretty clear that the actor Case Walker has grown up a lot since season one—not that it affects the show, but he’s an adult now. Was that something you two worried about in the two-plus years between seasons?
CK: It was a concern for a second. But then it’s like, there’s literally nothing on earth to be done about it, so it became not a concern to me. But he did grow—he’s now 18, and we just decided to ignore it. Sometimes we were like, “Hey, Case, can you slouch? Hey, Drew, can you stand on your tiptoes?” There is one scene where they’re in a restaurant, and it was shot before the pandemic, but then they walk outside the restaurant after the pandemic. And I think he turned 18 that day, so we said, “Keep slouching!” [Laughs.] “Can you paint some, like, little pink circles on his cheeks? Can you talk higher?” but, I mean, kids grow up!
SS: But, when we wrote it—because the season starts with him going to college, and that idea was like, “How crazy is that? That he went to college? He’s a little kid!” [Laughs.] But he is college aged, actually, so it makes sense!
CK: People are going to just have to roll with the punches there. [Laughs.] We were concerned about his age until the pandemic hit, and then we’re like, “Okay, so there are real things to be concerned about here.”
AVC: I don’t think it’s spoiling anything, considering it’s in the trailer, but the influencer from season one’s “Chase Gets A Nosebleed,” Cameron Colby, comes back. Once again, he kind of holds a mirror up to Cary, but in a very different way.
CK: We just really wanted the Instagays back, obviously. Jimmy Fowlie is so funny, and so is Constantine Rousouli who plays another Instagay this season. But it was kind of like we talked about earlier: We wanted to bring back so many of the things in the first season that were fun to us, but then we didn’t want to just repeat ourselves. So we did talk about how we could bring a version of the Instagays back without just doing the same thing again. Cary’s in a relationship now and that’s progress for him, but then it sort of turns into a thing where it’s like he’s married within weeks. So it was fun to get to bring in Jimmy as a different version of an Instagay to kind of exacerbate all his fears—it’s a different type of gay on social media that we always think is funny, so we really had fun with it in the writers room. We like that Jimmy Fowlie’s character could maybe have, like, a thousand different lives. [Laughs.]
AVC: That story also really speaks to the sentiment that The Other Two is a show that can be considered “very online,” in the sense that you two and your writers seem very plugged into what people are talking about on the internet and how they’re talking about it. Does that feel like an apt assessment of the show?
SS: I think so!
CK: You know, there are so many specific, niche jokes that not everyone’s going to—like, Sarah was joking about how her mom was like, “I love the show!” And Sarah’s like, “How could you?” [Laughs.] “How do you even know what it is?” But we kind of think: The more specific, the better. Because it makes us laugh, and not everyone is going to get every joke, and that’s okay. But, comedy aside, it just makes it feel a little realer. It’s the way Sarah and I will talk to each other, it’s the way good friends or brothers and sisters talk. You have a shorthand with each other. You know the same references, you know the same specifics, so just the level of specificity in conversation between Brooke and Cary makes you feel it, it makes you buy the relationship more. So we like when they reference the same celebrity, or like when they know the same minor detail about a TV show, because it’s funny to us, but also it just feels lived in.
SS: That’s the world they inhabit. We talked about that early on— you know how, sometimes, it’s like, “They go to Google but in this it’s ‘Gargle,’” or whatever? That’s great for some shows, but we really do like the hyperrealism. Because they inhabit this world, and if we’re saying that Pat! is literally the equivalent of Ellen in our world, then if you’re living in a world with “Gargle,” that legitimacy crumbles. So it does all feel better to be built on a world of specifics.
AVC: Those specifics also allow you to have a lot of fun with bringing other actors, other celebrities, into the world of the show.
SS: Our list of guest stars this season reads like Mad Libs. It’s like, what and how and why and where and in what context? And you will not guess. [Laughs.]
CK: There’s a bunch of fun [guests] that come into the season and, like Sarah said, kind of in weird ways where they’ll play a weird version of themselves.
SS: That’s one of the reasons we are so excited for this season to get out—like, our guest stars, but also there are a lot of big characters that come in and out of episodes. And we got some performances from a lot of local New York theater actors that really blew us away as we were shooting. So we’re really excited to put those out into the world. We feel really lucky to get to work with all these people who were sort of available to us because Broadway was sadly shut down. So we feel very lucky we got that chance.
CK: And we tried to take some big swings, like episodes that take place in random [places]—episode five is at a celebrity church baptism. We try to start every new episode in a weird space and, I don’t know, hopefully there’s a lot of big, big things happening in the season! It’s just been so long, and we’re so goddamn excited for it to finally be out.
SS: And hopefully it makes people laugh because I think that that’s something that we can offer right now.