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Saying a complicated goodbye to the cult Max comedy ‘The Other Two’

An adult brother and sister ordering from a restaurant counter
Drew Tarver and Heléne Yorke in “The Other Two.”
(Zach Dilgard / HBO)
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Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who’s wrestling with complicated feelings over the end of the much-loved Max comedy “The Other Two.”

As The Times’ Meredith Blake writes in this week’s Catch Up, the cult showbiz satire finished its three-season run on Thursday under an unexpected cloud amid reports that creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider had been investigated (and ultimately cleared) for allegedly engaging in the same kind of toxic behavior the show lampoons. For the uninitiated, though, the series’ darkly absurdist take on the soul-sucking power of stardom shines through any off-screen drama.

Also in Screen Gab No. 87, “World’s Best” star and rapper Utkarsh Ambudkar reveals his favorite hip-hop films and TV series, we offer streaming recommendations for your weekend and more. Want to be featured in a future newsletter? Pretend we’re at the water cooler and give us your review of a TV show or streaming movie you’ve loved. (Submissions should be approximately 100 to 150 words and sent to screengab@latimes.com with your name and location.)

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Must-read stories you might have missed

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Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” in season 2 of Hulu’s “The Bear”
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How ‘Fishes,’ the most chaotic episode of Season 2 of ‘The Bear,’ came together: Christopher Storer, the creator of “The Bear,” discusses how he directed the season’s wild and stressful holiday episode, “Fishes.”

There’s no movie star like Harrison Ford. And there never will be again: Hollywood is no longer capable of creating a career like Ford’s, and he knows it. So he plans to keep doing it while he can.

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Commentary: ‘The Idol’ is no ‘Euphoria,’ but it reveals a similar misogyny: HBO’s ‘The Idol’ is meant to be a satire about the excesses of fame, celebrity worship and the objectification of underage talent, but it fails to succeed.

Turn on

Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

A man in a boxing robe and gloves.
Woo Do-hwan in “Bloodhounds.”
(Soyun Jeon, Seowoo Jung / Netflix)

Hollywood actioners could learn quite a lot from the new Korean series “Bloodhounds” (Netflix). It follows two very different young boxers in Seoul, Gun-woo (Woo Do-hwan) and Woo-jin (Lee Sang-yi of the K-pop group MSG Wannabe), as they’re drawn into a war between violent loan sharks building a criminal empire and former loan sharks now trying to help the poor. Gun-woo is earnest and innocent, but extremely powerful; Woo-jin is streetwise and improvisational, a charming fast talker. Their endearing friendship carries the series. Just accept the action-series logic and enjoy the appealing relationship development, abundant humor and amazingly well-choreographed action scenes. The fighting styles for each character are carefully differentiated and every fight feels consequential. Beloved characters are not immune to severe, gut-wrenching harm. If you’re feeling burned by the “Citadel”s and “Gray Man”s of the world, check out these impressive, fast-moving, engaging eight episodes with plenty of “Whoa” and “Oh no!” moments. — Michael Ordoña

Sagiri holding her sword sanding behind Gabimaru
Sagiri, left, and Gabimaru in “Hell’s Paradise.” ©YUJI KAKU/SHUEISHA, TWIN ENGINE, MAPPA
(Crunchyroll)

“Hell’s Paradise” (Crunchyroll) was initially pitched to me as “an animated ‘Suicide Squad’ set in feudal Japan.” The description isn’t inaccurate, but it doesn’t do the show justice. An action anime with a horror twist, the series follows Gabimaru, a death row ninja who keeps surviving his executions because of his superhuman abilities and his subconscious wish to return to his wife. His newest executioner, Sagiri, offers Gabimaru a chance to be pardoned of all his crimes: join an expedition to a mysterious island to find a mythical elixir that grants immortality. The convicts (paired with individual executioners) who embark on that mission soon discover the island is teeming with supernatural creatures including gruesome giants and deadly insects. The animation is striking, with heightened action scenes that don’t shy away from blood and gore, but the characters and the glimpses into their backstories help the series shine. Brief vignettes often reveal how individual choices and systemic forces have led to these characters being branded as “outsiders” in their world. — Tracy Brown

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Catch up

Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about

HBO's "The Other Two" spoofs "Angels in America" with the play "8 Gay Men with AIDS." Fin Argus, center.
(Max)

What does it mean when the people behind a show about the toxic power of celebrity are accused of engaging in the very behavior they skewer?

That’s the question on the minds of “The Other Two” fans, who learned this week that the comedy, an absurd yet heartfelt look at how sudden fame affects a family in mourning, would not only not be returning for a fourth season, but also that creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider had been investigated following claims of abusive conduct toward staff and crew.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the duo, former head writers at “SNL,” were ultimately cleared of wrongdoing. But the allegations cast a pall over the show’s brilliantly bonkers final season, which concluded with a sweet finale Thursday and took its showbiz satire to dizzying new heights. (The show has followed a journey indicative of the strange state of TV in 2023: It debuted on Comedy Central in 2019, was delayed for 2½ years by the pandemic, then landed at HBO Max, later renamed Max.)

“The Other Two” centers on Cary and Brooke Dubek (Drew Tarver and Heléne Yorke), aimless thirtysomethings whose kid brother, Chase, becomes an overnight pop sensation like Justin Bieber. Their deeply normal mother, Pat (Molly Shannon), parlays her youngest child’s fame — and her own relatability — to become a daytime TV tycoon with her own cable network.

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Meanwhile, Cary and Brooke — the “other two” of the title — struggle to find meaning and purpose in their lives. In Season 3, they manage to get there, but not without hitting rock bottom first.

Cary, an aspiring actor, finally gets some traction in his career, thanks to a milestone role as Globby, a gay blob of slime in a Disney movie called “Haunted Buddies 4” and a role in a Netflix fantasy series called “Wind Weaver.” But he lets the newfound attention go to his head and destroy his closest friendship.

Then there’s Brooke, who decides to quit her job as a talent manager in search of a more meaningful path, only to discover she is now (literally) invisible to people in the industry. She is eventually lured back to the business to help Chase as he navigates a rocky transition from teen sensation to adult star (including a bad boy phase).

Throughout the season, Schneider and Kelly — who came up at “Saturday Night Live” and bring a sketch-like sensibility to much of their writing — took some audacious swings, sending Brooke to space (twice; long story) and concocting a storyline in which Brooke and Cary plan a family dinner at a soundstage designed to look like an Applebee’s as a gift for their mom, who has become too famous to go outside.

A running gag centers on Cary’s boyfriend, Lucas (Fin Argus), a method actor so committed to the stock gay roles he keeps getting that he can never have sex. (While starring as an AIDS patient in an “Angels in America”-like play, he rebuffs Cary’s advances because “the doctors don’t know what this is yet.”)

But perhaps no other episode presented a darker, or more hilarious, take on celebrity than “Brooke Hosts a Night of Undeniable Good,” in which Brooke produces a mental health telethon cynically designed to boost Chase’s record sales as Cary, wearing a pee-soaked adult diaper, drives 90 mph in order to reach Ohio in time for a famous-person victory lap at his high school reunion.

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Maybe Kelly and Schneider were writing what they know and working through some of their darker impulses this season. Maybe not. Either way, it was quite a ride.

Guest spot

A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching

Manny Magnus and Utkarsh Ambudkar in Disney+'s "World's Best."
Manny Magnus and Utkarsh Ambudkar in Disney+’s “World’s Best.”
(Ben Mark Holzberg / Disney)

Though he usually spends episodes of the CBS series “Ghosts” chatting up all kinds of undead spirits, Utkarsh Ambudkar plays one himself in “World’s Best.” Now streaming on Disney+, the hip-hop comedy follows a 12-year-old mathematics genius as he discovers his recently deceased father had a penchant for rap. The movie features a script and original music co-written by Ambudkar, the latter of which he performs with his onscreen son (Manny Magnus) in sequences that pay homage to classic movie-musicals and ‘90s music videos. Ambudkar stopped by Screen Gab recently to discuss his favorite coming-of-age kids movies, hip-hop music onscreen and what he’s watching. — Ashley Lee

What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?

The first episode of the new season of “Black Mirror.” It is very timely and it seems like it was made specifically for the state of today’s [entertainment] industry, where creators have very real concerns about AI and its potential misuse in the not-too-distant future. It’s executed with humor and class, and really makes for a compelling watch. And Salma Hayek is freakin’ incredible.

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What’s your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?

There are so many. I guess it depends on how I want to feel? If I’m looking to ugly cry, “Saving Private Ryan.” If I need to laugh uncontrollably, Adam Sandler’s “100% Fresh” or Eric Andre’s “Bad Trip.” If I need victorious sports inspiration, “Rocky Balboa” and then probably any martial arts movie made between 1979 and 1999, with my favorite being “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon.”

Which movies or TV shows have captured hip-hop and rap the best over the years?

Thank you! No. 1 on the list of most recent shows is “Blindspotting.” It’s just so well done. I gauge content like this based on how 13-year-old me would react to it, and 13-year-old me would fall in love with the language of hip-hop and want to do it for the rest of his life. Other favorites are “The Get Down,” “Slam,” “Beats,” “Krush Groove,” the first and second “Breakin’ ” movies, and “8 Mile.”

“World’s Best” reminds me of the decades-old sports or hobby movies we grew up with. Which were instrumental to you as a kid?

That’s what we were going for! Oh man, too many to choose from. “Drumline,” “Karate Kid,” the “Mighty Ducks” trilogy (yes, all three). Three sets of two words: “Knuckle Puck,” “Triple Deke” and “Bash Brothers.” I love the idea of a group of misfits banding together to achieve a common goal. There’s so much humor and heart in those movies. I should add “Little Giants” to this list as well because Becky “The Icebox” O’Shea is probably the most underrated sports movie badass of all time.

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What’s next

Listings coordinator Matt Cooper highlights the TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on

Fri., June 30

“Children of the Corn” (Shudder): They’re out standing in their field in a 2023 reimagining of the 1984 terror tale based on the Stephen King short story.

“Essence Fest Primetime” (Hulu, 5 p.m.; also Saturday-Sunday): Missy Elliott, Megan Thee Stallion and Ms. Lauryn Hill take it to the stage in this three-night event in New Orleans.

“Is It Cake?” (Netflix): It better be. This baking competition hosted by “SNL’s” Mikey Day drops a fresh batch of new episodes.

“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” (Prime Video): John Krasinski reports for duty as the globetrotting action drama returns for its fourth and final season.

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“The 100 Days” (KOCE, 8 and 9 p.m.): This new docuseries that revisits pivotal moments in history launches with back-to-back episodes set during the dark days of WWII.

“The Articulate Hour” (KOCE, 11 p.m.): Scientists, artists, et al. ponder the concept of time in this new episode that features a performance by singer-songwriter Valerie June.

Sat., July 1

“Money in the Bank” (Peacock, noon): What’s all this then? Pro wrestling’s finest face off in London in the WWE’s first marquee event from the British capital since 2002.

“USFL Championship Game” (NBC, 5 p.m.): The league’s top two teams face off at the Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

“My Professor’s Guide to Murder” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): What can she do, he’s got tenure in this new TV movie. With Rae DeRosa.

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Sun., July 2

“Essence Fest Primetime” (Hulu, 5 p.m.): Megan Thee Stallion headlines the closing night of this three-day get-together live from New Orleans.

“Sharkfest” (Nat Geo, Disney+, various times): Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, this summer-long salute to one of the ocean’s apex predators returns with a raft of docs and specials.

“Tough as Nails” (CBS, 8 p.m.; also Friday): They’re rolling up their sleeves and clocking in for a fifth season of the reality competition. Phil Keoghan hosts.

“Endeavour” (KOCE, 9 p.m.): It’s case closed as this “Inspector Morse” prequel presents its series finale. With Shaun Evans.

Mon., July 3

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“Unknown” (Netflix): Archaeologists go in search of “The Lost Pyramid” in the debut installment of this new four-part docuseries exploring mysteries past, present and future.

Wimbledon (ESPN, 3 a.m.): The great-great-grandmother of all tennis tournaments gets underway at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London.

“POV” (KOCE, 10 p.m.): The new documentary “A Story of Bones” explores a mass grave on the island of St. Helena that includes the mortal remains of thousands of formerly enslaved Africans.

Tue., July 4

“Tom Segura: Sledgehammer” (Netflix): The comic, author and podcaster comes out swinging in this new standup special filmed in Phoenix.

“Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest” (ESPN2, 9 a.m.): They’ll be stuffing themselves stupid until a wiener is announced in the annual competition from Coney Island.

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“The Fourth in America” (CNN, 4 p.m.): You oughta know that Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow and Duran Duran are among the performers slated for this Independence Day special.

“A Big Independence Day Celebration” (Fox News, 5 p.m.): How big? This special boasts musical performances plus fireworks from New York City and Washington, D.C.

“Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular” (NBC, 8 p.m.): Rap legend LL Cool J and country music’s Lainey Wilson are among the performers slated for this year’s special.

“A Capitol Fourth” (KOCE, 8 and 9:30 p.m.): Belinda Carlisle, Boyz II Men and soprano Renée Fleming perform at the annual celebration. Alfonso Ribeiro hosts.

Wed., July 5

“CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair” (Hulu): Dolly Parton, Blake Shelton, et al., sing the praises of the annual fan-centric confab in Nashville in this new doc.

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“Wham!” (Netflix): Wake me up before you go watch this new doc about the chart-topping 1980s British pop duo composed of Andrew Ridgeley and the late George Michael.

“Human Footprint” (KOCE, 9 p.m.): This new six-part series examines the impact that we Homo sapiens have made on this fragile planet we all call home.

Thu., July 6

“The Lincoln Lawyer” (Netflix): He’s still riding in style in new episodes of this L.A.-set mystery drama based on the Michael Connelly novel. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo stars.

“Shaun White: The Last Run” (Max): There’s no boarding like snowboarding in this new four-part profile of the three-time Olympic gold medalist.

“(Re)solved” (Vice, 9 p.m.): The shocking 2018 death of beloved Swedish DJ and music producer Avicii is reexamined in this new episode.

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“Breaking the Ice” (WE tv, 9 p.m.): Former figure-skating champion Rory Flack forges a diverse group of young women into a synchronized ice-skating team in this new series.

“My Adventures With Superman” (Adult Swim, midnight and 12:30 a.m.): Look! Up in the sky! It’s the Man of Steel as a 20-something superhero making a name for himself in Metropolis in this new animated series.

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