The first season of Only Murders in the Building was such a refreshing series with Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez a surprising match. They played tenants in an affluent Manhattan apartment building who don’t believe the initial report that another tenant committed suicide. Realizing they’re all fans of murder podcasts, they begin their own titled “Only Murders in the Building” as they track down clues to what really happened.
Martin plays Charles-Haden Savage, a semi-retired TV actor who had a hit police procedural drama in the 1990s and has been stuck in the past since then. Short is Oliver Putnam, a struggling Broadway director whose flambouyant and high-concept plays have backfired and made him blacklisted. And Gomez is Mabel Mora, a 20-something who was supposed to be renovating the apartment for her aunt, but it was discovered she hung out there when she was going to school and may be connected with a previous mysterious death that we discover was also a murder.
The show was a mixture of black comedy and social commentary as murder podcasts are so popular but people don’t realize the harsh realities. Charles and Oliver are mostly narcissistic themselves which makes them the perfect types to see the death of another tenant as a way to get their celebrity status back. But yet they were both struggling with some past issues. Charles was recovering from a relationship break-up where he had formed a special bond with his ex’s daughter. And Oliver was in a strained relationship with his son as he was financially strapped.
Mabel is a nice addition as her youth and dark past seemed to fit in. All three characters are hiding something while also trying for other dark secrets in their apartment building, the Arconia. What they found out was how much the other tenants in the building didn’t care for them nor the popularity of the podcast, especially after it was mocked on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
The series ended with all three determining the killer was a professional bassoonist played by Amy Ryan who had a relationship with Charles. And it wouldn’t be a murder black comedy if the season didn’t end on a cliffhanger with the murder of Arconia board president Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell), whose body is found in Mabel’s apartment. And the police arrive just after Charles and Oliver come in to see Mabel kneeling over Bunny with blood on her.
The second season begins with them being questioned by the police detectives Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and Kreps (Michael Rapaport). Williams was the detective they met on the reported suicide death and has been critical of their podcast once learning of it as her wife is a fan. They’re released as persons of interest. And returning to the Arconia are viewed as the other tenants as murderers.
But eventually, their curiosity gets them looking into Bunny’s murder as she was murdered on her last day serving as board president. We also discover that Bunny had a painting reportedly worth a fortune in her apartment that Charles’ father modeled for that has been stolen and left in Charles’ apartment. But Bunny’s mother, Lenora (Shirley MacLaine in a surprise cameo) sees it and reports it’s a forgery.
I’ve always said too much the second season and about the painting but how Lenora disovers the painting is a forgery is all part of the second episode. It’s revealed Nina Lin (Christine Ko) is taking over as board president, but in the third episode, we discover Bunny wasn’t ready to leave. At the same time, Amy Schumer has moved into a penthouse formally occupied by Sting and is talks with Oliver for a 10-episode series. (This is a nice joke at how many limited series now seem to be based on podcasts as they used to be based on books.)
Mabel has also become involved more with Alicia Banks (Cara Delevingne) who works at an art gallery. Delevingne’s character seems to be as awkward as her behavior around Megan Thee Stallion at the Billboard Music Awards recently. Where’s all this leading to? I don’t know. Is it a red herring? What made the first season so good was that it was structured that when the hook came that Ryan’s character was the killer, you didn’t feel like her character was extraneous.
Of course, they’re not a Nick at Nite reunion so a love interest being Bunny’s killer is probably not going to happen. But I do know they’re going to be running out of plot lines for this series eventually. How often can an affluent apartment building have so many killers? It reminds me of the joke from The Lonely Guy where Martin’s character notices a nice neighborhood has a high crime rate.
While the series is one of the best I’ve seen in a while, it does have some problems. One of those is Tina Fey’s character, Cinda Canning, who has her own successful podcasts. And yes, she’s a horrible person. The whole celebrity-is-a-pompous-jerk motif has been worn out a long time ago. Unfortunately, Fey has never been the best actress. She might be a good comedy writer. But aside from parodying Sarah Palin, she mostly stayed behind the Weekend Update desk on SNL for a reason. Even during a skit, a joke was made that they couldn’t tell she was supposed to be playing a real journalist. She doesn’t really invest herself into roles that well.
The other complaint is the reappearance in episode three of Sam (Jaboukie Young-White), one of the dedicated fans of the podcast “Only Murders in the Building.” Young-White has no personality nor charisma. He just smiles and laughs like a smarmy person who thinks everyone over 25 is just weird. He’s the worst correspondent on The Daily Show since Nate Cordry shot real pheasants and tried to make a joke out of it much to the audience’s shock and groaning. But since neither Fey nor Young-White are in big roles, it’s easy to overlook them.
Both Martin and Short have worked together off and on for so long they’re good at playing off each other. And Gomez has been the biggest surprise. It might have seemed like stunt casting but she has been able to work just as well with veterans like Martin and Short. And they all have great chemistry together.
Here’s hoping the rest of the season is full of surprises and laughs.
What do you think? Please comment.