Emmy spotlight: Comedy Central’s ‘The Other Two’ skewers showbiz with surprising sweetness

Comedy Central has been an Emmy magnet when it comes to variety series like “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” “Key and Peele” and “Inside Amy Schumer.” But ironically, the network with comedy in its name still hasn’t been nominated for Best Comedy Series. This year the cable outlet could be a contender for “The Other Two,” which is about a show business world voters will recognize but treats that world with an affectionate wink instead of a sneer.

Showbiz shows have been popular at the Emmys, including three-time Best Comedy Series champ “30 Rock” (2007-2009), reigning Comedy Series winner “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (2018) and Comedy Series nominees “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Master of None,” “Atlanta,” “GLOW” and more, which focus on characters in or around the entertainment industry. In much the same vein, “The Other Two” stars Helene Yorke and Drew Tarver as underachieving siblings Brooke and Cary Dubek, who find themselves on the outskirts of superstardom when their little brother Chase (Case Walker) becomes a Justin Bieber-style viral music sensation overnight.

But a big part of what makes the show work is its empathy. It unsparingly skewers clueless managers, trend-chasing publicists and Instagram influencers, but the core characters are treated more kindly than you might expect. That’s evidenced in the very first episode, which ends with a sweet moment between the Dubeks that reveals Chase (known professionally as Chase Dreams) not as a vain brat but as a normal teenage boy caught in the same confusing media whirlwind as the rest of his family. Even their eccentric stage mom (Molly Shannon) feels genuinely human.

Keeping the core characters grounded gives us someone to relate to and root for as the show explores the absurdities of newfound fame. The characters are dysfunctional, but not looked down upon. And the jokes are pointed without veering into cynicism. That’s a testament to series creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider. Both are “Saturday Night Live” alums, which gives them a keen understanding of the media world they’re depicting, but Kelly also wrote and directed the indie dramedy “Other People” about a gay comedy writer coming to terms with his mother’s cancer. All of those sensibilities — the wily, the weird and the warm — come through here.

The series scored 79 on MetaCritic. Hanh Nguyen (IndieWire) praised the show for its “snarky as hell” satire and its “surprisingly endearing portrait of a loving family still raw from shared pain.” Kristen Baldwin (Entertainment Weekly) agrees that it’s an “endearing family comedy masquerading as a legitimately hilarious pop culture satire.” And Jen Chaney (Vulture) calls it “the year’s first great new comedy.”

So will “The Other Two” finally put Comedy Central on the map for Best Comedy Series? Kelly and Schneider have been perennial nominees as members of the “SNL” writing team. Scene-stealer Shannon is a three-time Emmy nominee. And the television academy might be vaguely familiar with another one of the show’s executive producers — Lorne Michaels I think his name is. So there’s a good chance the show will be on voters’ radar, as long as they remember to look to the network for more than just its variety shows.

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominations are announced on July 16. And join in the fun debate over the 2019 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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