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Josh Reviews Only Murders in the Building

In Only Murders in the Building, Steven Martin plays Charles Haden Savage, who years ago starred in a popular TV crime show called Brazzos as the titular detective.  Martin Short plays Oliver Putnam, who used to be a successful Broadway producer before several outlandish flops sunk his career.  And Selena Gomez plays Mabel Mora, a young woman living in her aunt’s mostly gutted apartment building.  The three are total strangers, but they all live in the same luxury Manhattan apartment building, the Arconia, and they’re all huge fans of true-crime podcasts.  When a young man named Tim Kono dies in their building, the three of them doubt the police’s determination that it was a suicide.  They suspect foul play, and set out to find the truth, charting their investigation in a true-crime podcast of their own.

I adored this first season of Only Murders in the Building.  It’s a near-perfect concoction.  It’s a very funny show that is also a compelling drama and an engaging mystery, whose twists and turns are perfectly paced to carry us through this first ten-episode season.

Steve Martin and Martin Short have been comedic collaborators for many decades, and it is tremendously joyous to me to see that not only are they continuing to work together on new material, but that they both still demonstrate such fierce comedic powers.  Watching these two men play off of one another is like watching two master musicians at work.  To say their comic timing is flawless would be to understate matters.  Is this edgy, groundbreaking comedy?  No.  It’s something very different: it’s two grand masters at work.

Pairing these two older comic actors with Selena Gomez is an inspired idea, but it’s also one that I could have easily seen sounding good on paper but failing in execution.  But I was delighted by how wonderful Selena Gomez is in this show, and how seamlessly her energy and style meshes with that of Steve Martin and Martin Short.  The three very quickly become a magnificently synchronized trio, and the show is always at its best when the three of them are on screen together.  I’m impressed with Ms. Gomez’s ability to go toe-to-toe with these two comedic giants, and with how skillfully she’s able to create a fascinating character in Mabel; someone mysterious and also someone for whom the audience never loses empathy.  It’s a terrific performance and I was immediately captivated.

If this was twenty years ago, Steve Martin and Martin Short would be collaborating on a new movie.  But because it’s 2021, this project is a TV show, and I am impressed at how smoothly these two talents have been able to apply what worked on the … [continued]