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The Other Two Is the Comedy Dark Horse We're Rooting for at the 2019 Emmys

Killing the competition with kindness

Megan Vick

Comedy Central is a bit of an Emmys juggernaut when it comes to the variety series categories thanks to shows like Key & Peele, Drunk History, Inside Amy Schumer, and The Daily Show, but the network with comedy literally in its name has never landed a nomination for Best Comedy Series. This could be the year that changes thanks to The Other Two, a satire from former Saturday Night Live writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider about two thirtysomething siblings, Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver), who must adjust to life after their teen brother Chase (Case Walker) becomes the next Justin Bieber overnight.

The series was a critical hit for Comedy Central and scored an early Season 2 renewal along with its awards buzz. While The Other Two might seem like a dark horse to some, an Emmy pedigree is built into its DNA. Kelly and Schneider have been perennial nominees as SNL writers for the past seven years, as has SNL creator Lorne Michaels, who also serves as an executive producer on The Other Two. Series star Molly Shannon, who plays the matriarch of the Dubek family, has three nominations to her name as well.

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However, impressing the Television Academy wasn't the only way Kelly and Schneider's experience as head writers of SNL -- a role they held during President Trump's election and its immediate aftermath -- prepared them to stick the landing with The Other Two.

"We really liked writing music videos and pop culture stuff [on] Saturday Night Live, so we knew that was probably going to be a little bit of the DNA of this show," Kelly told TV Guide over the phone. "Just from a production standpoint [SNL] prepared us because SNL is different than other staff writing jobs. You really do get to produce your pieces from beginning to end. If you get a sketch picked, you are in charge of helping communicate with hair, makeup, and costumes. If you get a video piece on, you sit with the editor and you help figure out the locations and the sets. So you really get to be super hands on, and it helped us be more prepared to show-run our own show, which is such a huge jump from being a staff writer."

​Case Walker and Ken Marino, The Other Two

Case Walker and Ken Marino, The Other Two

Comedy Central

There's plenty of room within The Other Two to mock Gen-Z or to take a cynical look at the millennial struggle to succeed in the modern day, but the heart of the show is a family that genuinely cares about each other despite going through a unique, bizarre experience.

"We just wanted it to feel real. Brooke and Cary aren't Sarah and I, but we wanted to make sure we related to them. It was important that this was a real family, and that they loved each other and that these are real people going through this weird thing," Kelly said. "We just thought if Chase was a little sh--head, or a little bratty, or they hated him, or wrote him off, it would feel [fake]."

An essential part of creating that authenticity was casting the right people. While Yorke and Tarver are veterans of their respective comedy scenes in New York and Los Angeles, they had been playing supporting roles until The Other Two came along.

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"The cast is just amazing. I think we really found some really cool, great people that I hadn't seen on TV before. I got to work with some really classic [comedy legends]," Schneider told us. "I'm really proud of how much they shine in the show. I think Heléne and Drew both hadn't had main roles on shows before. [They] are both so, so good, and so considered and so well-acted that I really like watching it for them."

Tarver, who knew Kelly after landing a bit part in Kelly's feature film Other People, was so eager to read for the part that he reached out to Kelly on Facebook messenger to ask for an audition -- something his character, Cary, would definitely do in a moment of desperation, but it ended up working out for the best.

"I Facebook messaged Chris, and was like 'Hey, can I send you a take? I really like this show. Could I please just send you a take?'" Tarver recounted to TV Guide. "He was probably rewriting stuff for Alec Baldwin at the time, and was like, 'Jesus, what does Tarver want?,' but he was nice enough to watch it, and they came to L.A and they did auditions. I just auditioned out here, went through the process a couple times and ended up getting cast on it."

Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver, The Other Two

Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver, The Other Two

Comedy Central

The show's balance of absurdity and heart is what drew Tarver to go the extra mile to get the part.

"I think Chris and Sarah do such a good job having the characters feel real and be funny, but also care about their family, like you would in real life," he said. "They're able to write these characters that have all of the emotions that actual human beings do. They are multidimensional. They have a bunch of sides to themselves. They are able to be loving while being jealous, which is a lot of life."

Yorke said the show's message has affected her as a person, which she attributes to Kelly and Schneider's excellent leadership.

"These are two people that are at the height of their game, and face everything and everyone with such openness and positivity, and they really brought that spirit to their writing, and to the show," Yorke explained. "We didn't play to the obvious thing that you're used to seeing -- that if you're a mess, it somehow means that you have to be an asshole. I just don't think that that's the case. I think a takeaway from that is that, if things aren't necessarily going your way, holding the people close to you that you love, that's such a good anchor for any person... I think that that's what Cary and Brooke do throughout the season as well."

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No episode exemplifies that anchor message as much the penultimate episode of the first season, in which Shannon's character, Pat, finally explains to Chase -- on a plane filled with his fans, which is being live-streamed to millions more around the globe -- that his father didn't die of cancer, but rather from freezing to death after getting drunk and passing out on the roof of their family home.

The bottle episode was the first episode the team shot for the series, so that they could shoot on an actual plane. Though the situation is absurd, the culminating emotional moment actually brought Tarver to tears the first time he read it.

"When we were reading it we were laughing, obviously, it's so funny -- then Molly [got] to her moment where we find out how our dad died," Tarver recalled. "I never had this feeling before, I was like, 'This feels so real, so sad. Are you about to cry?' I was about to cry at the table read just watching her do it... I'm like, 'Don't cry at Comedy Central. Jeff Ross is going to come in here and roast you if you start crying.'"

While daunting, shooting the emotional pinnacle of the season first turned out to be a benefit, according to Kelly, and helped the actors remember exactly where they were heading as they filmed the rest of the series.

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"It was also helpful when we went back and did the earlier episodes to remember the stakes of this season. Obviously for most, Episode 9 is so dramatic. Their dad did die, and he was an alcoholic who tragically froze to death, and this was fairly recent," Kelly said. "That you can go back and track that in earlier episodes, it helped ground the whole season. Hopefully the episodes are funny, but there is kind of a somber through line throughout that I think helped the actors to kind of key into."

When it's all put together, you have a gut-clenchingly funny comedy series that isn't making a profit out of putting anyone down or showing the worst that humanity has to offer. It's relatable in its cringey awkwardness, but heartwarming as these characters manage to bring themselves up by the bootstraps and show up for each other.

"I think what Chris and Sarah did is remarkable," Yorke said. "You leave the cocoon of Saturday Night Live to create something like this, to put your neck out there and do something different and to treat it with such care and to give it so much individualized attention and top to bottom, surround yourself with people -- what they did was surround their set with people they loved, and knew, and I hope it gets recognized somehow and some way."

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Of course, competition is thick. To break the comedy series category mold for Comedy Central, The Other Two is vying for a nomination alongside the final seasons of Veepand The Big Bang Theory, last year's Emmy sweeper The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and other critical darlings like Barry, Fleabag, and The Good Place -- just to name a few. If the show does fail to get the attention of the Academy, it'll be a shame, but Yorke promises they're still having the best time ever.

"I can't believe how much fun we have every day. The days are long, and they get crazy, and you get hot and uncomfortable, and whatever, but to spend a day with those people doing material that is truly, I think, fresh, and original, and great, with the greatest bosses around -- my cup runneth over," the actress raved. "I have nothing else to say. I could gush forever about it. It really is the best."

We have to agree.

The Other Two will return for Season 2 on Comedy Central.