Welcome to What’s the Buzz, where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Clay Dockery is hooked on Only Murders in the Building, Daniel Siuba is reading Black Orchid, and Don Shanahan checks out the physical release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Only Murders in the Building
Clay: I can’t stop thinking about Only Murders in the Building, and I really hope everyone is checking out this tremendous series. The first three episodes premiered on August 31st and immediately it became a must-watch hit. Those episodes did an amazing job of setting the stage in every area that a viewer would want from a TV show. The plot is engaging and features both a real, old school, slowly unraveling mystery that keeps getting more complex and darker, and also features some tremendous twists. By setting the series not just in New York, but in a very particular style of Upper West Side apartment complex, the place has taken on a life of its own. And each of the three main characters is interesting, flawed, deep, and played with virtuosity by the actors.
The performances by Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez really set the show apart. Each of them brings something unexpected to the characters they play that truly makes the show have a wondrous vibe. If you, like me, hadn’t seen a Steve Martin project in a long time then his portrayal of Charles-Hayden Savage is exactly what you need to get a refresher of his comic genius. (Martin is also co-creator of the show with Dan Fogelman and John Hoffman so the entire thing has that distinctive “Steve Martin” sensibility.) I feel like Martin Short’s work here may even be better, because for him the bar is higher.
Steve Martin’s best work, films like The Jerk, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, or Father of the Bride (which Short is also in) have a sort of universality to them. I’m not certain the same is true of Martin Short’s biggest roles, other than perhaps in The Three Amigos (which of course pairs him with Martin). Does anyone really remember exactly the point of Ed Grimley or Jimminy Glick? But as Oliver Putnam, Short is fantastic and relatable. The performance is sometimes just as over the top and outlandish as his other work, but in the context of this particular character, it actually makes Oliver seem even more grounded and real.
The best of the three though, and the biggest revelation of the series is Gomez. She plays light and dark. Gomez goes toe to toe with the two comedic legends and absolutely crushes the comedy. Then in the very next scene, she often has intense, staring at the camera contemplating the futility of existence, moments, and she is mesmerizing in those as well. Gomez goes far beyond just being “a good actor for a musician”, she, and her character Mable Mora already seems to be bound for greatness.
The show hits on all cylinders. The production design, directing, and acting all come together to make it a can’t miss tv series. As does the editing, which has a smooth flowing style that is tremendous at increasing the worldbuilding, it feels like the viewer is watching what is happening in person, which shows often try but rarely succeed in doing.
The fourth episode builds amazingly on the premiere. It deepens the hilarious world by bringing Sting and Tina Fey to the forefront. Amy Ryan, with her sexy bassoon, gets to have amazing scenes performing with Steve Martin and his concertina. S1E4 also ups the stakes of the murder mystery in various ways I won’t spoil but had me on the edge of my seat. Also, it resolved the one thing that had me concerned at the end of S1E3. (If you want to know, read my original article and know that the answer is: I am still watching the show.) All in all, Only Murders in the Building is that certain type of classically built TV that is just a joy to watch, and I hope anyone interested will give it a chance!