Only Murders In The Building Is A Cozy Comedy With Frothy Twists And Fabulous

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Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. Talk about an odd trio. Martin and Short have a long history of working together, in films like “Three Amigos!” and “Father of the Bride,” as well as countless comedy specials and tours. You can kind of know what to expect from the two of them: off-kilter, slapstick-y comedy. But throw Gomez in the mix, and you get something special.

I’m one of those of the opinion that Gomez is a better actress than a singer (don’t come after me Selena stans). She’s shown that she’s had charisma and effortless comedy chops since her Disney Channel days, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why she chose to pursue a career as a musical artist known for breathy whisper-songs (again, please don’t come for me Selena stans). But she settles in perfectly with Martin and Short’s goofy grandpa duo in “Only Murders in the Building,” perfectly balancing a cool likability with a thorny vulnerability — not to mention an enviable collection of faux-fur coats.

I tuned into “Only Murders in the Building” half because of those fabulous furs and half because I missed seeing Steve Martin on my screen — he hadn’t appeared in a feature film since 2016 and had basically been MIA from the pop culture scene outside of various cameo appearances as himself. So it’s fitting that he plays an introverted, forgotten actor whose only joy is in listening the weekly true-crime podcast episodes from Cinda Canning (Tina Fey, clearly relishing playing a satire of “Serial” host Sarah Koenig). That’s a joy that Charles-Haden, Oliver, and Mabel all find that they have in common, after the Arconia is evacuated when someone pulls the fire alarm. They have a true-crime obsession, which gets put to the unexpected test when the that fire alarm turns out to have been over the suicide of one of their neighbors, Tim Kono.

True crime is all the rage these days, to the point that it’s starting to feel a little ghoulish. Why do we so gleefully dissect people’s deaths and talk about twists in the investigation like they’re tropes in a pulp magazine? “Only Murders in the Building” lovingly skewers this strange morbid fascination that people have with true-crime, by playing into the clichés of the genre with style. I’ve heard some people compare “Only Murders in the Building” to the cozy comforts of a Nora Ephron movie (but you know, with murder), but I find it more akin to the morbid camp of Bryan Fuller’s “Pushing Daisies.” The loud colors and the even louder characters are all there, as is the slightly heightened artifice of things not being completely right. But while “Only Murders in the Building” is not quite as stylized as “Pushing Daisies,” you could certainly call them cousins — especially in the way it manages to tonally shift from bursts of violence to goofy comedy.

“Only the Murders in the Building” has been a delight from the beginning, and even though it’s only halfway through its 10-episode run, I can confidently say it’s one of my favorite new shows this year. The sparkling dynamic between Martin, Short, and Gomez, and its frothy approach to the tired true-crime genre makes it a complete blast to watch. But with a second season coming, you’ll just have to suspend your disbelief on how many murders can happen in one building.

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