DUBAI: The first season of “Only Murders in the Building” was a — largely unexpected — huge success. The comedy-mystery-drama was lauded for its ability to parody the ubiquitous true-crime docudramas and podcasts to often-hilarious effect while still managing to be a compelling, edge-of-the-seat whodunnit itself.
The second season — now showing in the region on Disney+ — continues to revolve around the trio of Charles Haden Savage (Steve Martin), an actor best known as the star of “Brazzos,” a 1990s detective drama; Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), a financially strapped theater director; and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez), who is renovating her aunt’s apartment at the Arconia, the venerable New York building of the show’s title, where the two older men also live.
In season one, the three relative strangers initially bonded over their love of true-crime podcasts. And when a young man was murdered in the Arconia, the trio tried to crack the case themselves, while starting their own podcast. They wrongly accused a number of building residents (including penthouse dweller Sting) of being the murderer, eventually became suspects themselves, were exonerated, and eventually helped unveil the real perpetrator.
Season two picks up straight after the season one finale, which found the trio being led from the Arconia in handcuffs after the building’s board president, Bunny Folger, is found dead in Mabel’s apartment. They are interviewed and released and are free to once again attempt to solve a homicide while continuing their podcast. It quickly becomes clear that the real killer is trying to frame them.
So, season two involves the treading of plenty of similar ground, with the trio leaping to several poorly judged conclusions about who is responsible, Amy Schumer replacing Sting as the building’s resident A-list celeb (she turns out to be a huge fan of the podcast), plenty of bitching about neighbors behind their backs, and so on.
Happily, more of the same is exactly what was needed. The magic of “Only Murders” lies mostly in the chemistry between the lead trio. Short and Martin, you sense, are having a joyous time showing off their considerable comedy chops, honed over decades. And Gomez appears to spark a fire in both of them. But all three are also capable of delivering emotionally hard-hitting performances too.
The writing is also superb — razor-sharp, never flabby. Each 30-minute episode is packed with beautifully observed insults, snarky comebacks, and general silliness, all balanced with some genuinely thrilling moments of tension and jeopardy. It all makes for a hugely enjoyable show.