Among the pleasures of HBO Max’s entertainment industry sendup “The Other Two” is the showcase it provides Ken Marino to play the kind of hapless but endearing doofus he does better than almost anybody.
From Ron, the cater-waiter desperate for positive customer feedback in the cult comedy “Party Down,” to a pushover police captain in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” to the insecure talent manager Streeter in “The Other Two,” Marino has constructed a small but indelible gallery of oblivious characters.
When teenage performer ChaseDreams (Case Walker) becomes a cultural sensation due to a viral video, Streeter is hired as his manager. Then Streeter gets romantically involved with Chase’s mother, Pat (Molly Shannon), who becomes host of a successful daytime talk show.
Streeter keeps hoping that Pat’s other two children, Chase’s adult siblings, will see him as a father figure, but they’re having none of it. Both are trying to launch their own showbiz careers. Cary (Drew Tarver) is struggling to land acting roles, while Brooke (Heléne Yorke), a former professional dancer, undergoes a period of floundering before agreeing to become part of her mother’s management team. Brooke agrees to a deal for Pat to host a game show, which makes Pat’s schedule even more hectic, leaving her less time for Streeter.
All of this sends Streeter’s insecurities into overdrive. He says to Pat plaintively, “I just want you to remember that I exist, and we’re in love.”
Marino’s delivery of the line is pitch-perfect. Developing a specialty can be key to sustaining an acting career, and he specializes in the kind of guy who’s fearful he’ll be not just overlooked but forgotten. Whether professionally or personally, Marino’s Streeter displays a puppyish need for approval and attention, blended with more than a bit of self-absorption.
Marino makes every moment count, just as he did on Starz’s gone-too-soon “Party Down,” where he portrayed Ron, the leader (for a time) of a team of cater-waiters in pink bow ties and white shirts, waiting for their big Hollywood break. The team’s view of Ron was summed up in an episode when Ron asked another caterer, Henry, played by Adam Scott: “Is there something wrong with me?” Replied Henry: “I think so, yes, quite possibly.”
“Party Down” was canceled in 2010 by Starz after only two seasons, but its popularity has only grown since then. In apparent recognition of its error, Starz announced earlier this year that a six-episode limited-series revival of “Party Down” was in the works. In the meantime, the original is streaming on Starz and Hulu — and you can savor Marino’s work on “The Other Two.”