news How ‘The Other Two’ Reserved a Table at a Fake Applebee’s

Was “normal” ever really possible for the Dubek family? But Episode 7 of “The Other Two” Season 3 sees maybe their most warped attempt at it to date. It’s probably an ill omen that matriarch Pat’s (Molly Shannon) idea of a “normal family dinner” is the Times Square Applebee’s, but her lover, Simu Liu (Simu Liu), uses his Marvel money to mount a handsome production of eatin’ good in the neighborhood. This meant that production designer Rocio Gimenez needed to craft all the ins and outs of an Applebee’s to be so convincing it could fool Pat and then look hilarious as the evening (and the fake walls) come crashing down around her.

Gimenez ended up using the same tool that powers the far-flung worlds of “The Mandalorian” and “Westworld” to create a fake all-American eatery: Unreal Engine. Gimenez built the floorplan, the lighting, even the wallpaper into a digital version of the set in order to properly calibrate the space and the right level of kitsch needed for an authentic Applebee’s. “I went to Applebee’s a lot during prep to really take in the colors and flair,” Gimenez told IndieWire. “Because it’s such a franchise, it’s always the same — but it’s also not.”

Once the series’ production designer had a sense of the Applebee’s palette, she used Unreal Engine to shape the floor plan for the major movements of the episode, from Cary (Drew Tarver) hiding in the unfinished bathroom to Pat’s run for the fake exit. Because the Max comedy shoots so quickly, Gimenez found it useful to give all the departments on “The Other Two” a guided tour of the dine-in experience, from the “hero” table where the Dubeks sit to the vaguely New York–themed decor on the walls.

“Everybody can walk inside and make sure [everything’s in the right spot], like they walk in going to the bathroom and know where the window is in reference to the table when Pat goes to leave. We can cover all of that, the colors, the textures, everything,” Gimenez said. “It streamlines the process for me. Getting approval sometimes takes a long time, so as a production designer one thing that I’m trying to do more and more is present [what I need] with tools like Unreal so the approvals can come quicker and we can get on it.”

Brooke (Helene York), Cary (Drew Tarver), Simu Liu and Pat Dubek (Molly Shannon) at the hero table on a Applebee's set in Episode 7 of The Other Two

“The Other Two”Greg Endries/Max

The “Normal Family Dinner” project seemingly came together much faster than Episode 7 of “The Other Two,” but it probably could have used the kind of walkthrough and quick collaboration that Gimenez facilitated. “I don’t even need to be there to tell the set dresser where the woods go or what fabric goes on what booth. Everything is part of the rendering,” Gimenez said.

But one of the joys of the episode for Gimenez was, for once, showing a level of incompleteness in the sets. Showing glimpses of craft tables for the crew or unfinished plywood just out of Pat’s eyeline makes the Applebee’s all the more heightened and ridiculous. The trick, according to Gimenez, was to create an environment that is 95 percent a picture-perfect reaction of Applebee’s — but that 5 percent fakery makes the whole set look funnier. Doing that also felt gratifyingly true to life for those working on a TV comedy.

Case Walker and Ken Marino as Chase and Streeter standing in the middle of a fake Applebee's in Episode 7 of The Other Two

“The Other Two” Greg Endries/Max

“This happens with production. We are never fully ready right before shooting, and so I feel like the concept of designing a set — there’s always something that’s missing at the very last moment — was part of how we made Applebee’s as well,” Gimenez said. “That’s also part of the joke.”

It was a joke that paid off for viewers in the chaos that reached far beyond Chase’s (Case Walker) many new fake titty tattoos, and it paid off for Gimenez and the crew of “The Other Two” as well. “The crew was so excited to build a restaurant that exists in the real world and add in those elements. It was so joyful to go deep, deep, deep into everything that Applebee’s means and maybe doesn’t actually exist at a real Applebee’s but would make sense for Applebee’s, so we would put it in,“ Gimenez said.

“Then when we were done shooting, production brought Applebee’s food. Everybody was eating real Applebee’s food in the fake Applebee’s set. That was funny. [The set] is so funny.”