Still from the television show 'The Other Two' depicting the cast standing and smiling in a door frame
Courtesy of Greg Endries/Warner Bros. Discovery

The Other Two Captures the Cringe and Futility of Online Life

The funniest show you’re probably not watching kicks off its third season this week on HBO Max.

What does it mean to be an actor in the Age of Entirely Too Much Content? For Cary Dubek, one of the protagonists on HBO Max’s The Other Two, it means having Night Nurse, your (entirely fictional) long-sought screen debut finally get a premiere party after three years of Covid-19 production delays, only for the theater to be sold to Starbucks as soon as the lights dim. When Cary’s friends retreat to his apartment to watch the movie on a streamer—as is the wont for most mid-level movies these days—he struggles to remember his Hulu password, trying combination after combination for hours, until he realizes it was actually the first one he tried “but with an exclamation point.”

While Night Nurse seems to be liked well enough by the masses, it pretty much comes and goes, lost in today’s thundering torrent of shows, movies, podcasts, TikToksYouTube clips, and whatever else everyone is talking about today. Cary hangs on, though, posting Twitter tributes to nurses on every National Nurses Day and celebrating cast member birthdays for the weeks that follow, until his loved ones make him realize (via a publicity scam) that he just needs to chill out—and that’s only a fraction of the hilariously depressing thirst that sweeps across The Other Two’s third season, premiering Thursday.

It’s a perfectly frustrating scenario for Cary, who rose to prominence not necessarily because of his acting chops but because on the show, he’s also the gay older brother of a prominent Justin Bieber-like pop star and the son of a woman who, last season, became an Oprah-level lifestyle mogul. Alongside sister Brooke (Heléne Yorke), Cary quests for the next bigger, better thing—or at least the next thing that’ll look great on social media.

“There's always something new or better that he's not involved in, and he's very obsessed with how he's coming off,” says Drew Tarver, who plays Cary. “He's very susceptible to trying to chase the high of being in the new cool thing or being a part of what's hot, and in the climate of ever changing internet and media, he's also very susceptible to not feeling good.”

Since its debut on Comedy Central in 2019, The Other Two has enjoyed a slow but steady rise to comedic prominence. Now, the series is an HBO Max exclusive—or Max exclusive, come May 23—making all of Cary’s foibles feel especially poignant. While the cast and crew of The Other Two is clearly proud of what they’ve made, they also acknowledge that media is inherently ephemeral in 2023.

“You put something out there, and you don't know if it's going to catch on and become a piece of pop culture or if it's just going to be lost to the wind,” says Brandon Scott Jones, who plays Curtis on the show. “It’s interesting, because it should be enough to just make the thing, but for a lot of people, what you really always wanted was to make the thing that everyone loves, and it’s hard to realize that’s out of your control.”

It’s even easier to get lost in the internet muck these days, now that streamers are letting series licenses lapse or removing original content to save money. Sarah Schneider, one of the cocreators of The Other Two, says she had to ask one of the producers for a hard drive containing the show’s episodes, just in case it were to ever disappear. “We’re making something that’s so intangible,” she says, “and we don’t really have control over how long it exists.”

The Other Two has always had its finger on the pulse of modern futility, making jokes about everything from gay Twitter to a fictional red carpet show called Age, Net Worth, Feet that’s pretty much exactly as it sounds. The show has always managed to channel that hamster-wheel energy into being smart, funny, and brutal at the same time.

For the viewer, there’s humor to be found in the weight that Cary gives to something like Night Nurse, a movie that cocreator Chris Kelly says may be “quite literally nothing in the future,” but there’s also poignant recognition that, for a lot of us, that quest for more isn’t all that unfamiliar. Maybe that’s why The Other Two has captured so many hearts: Sometimes there’s nothing funnier than our own ridiculous selves—absurdly complicated Hulu passwords and all.

Updated 5-8-23, 2 pm EST: This story was updated to correct Heléne Yorke's name.