SERIES "Only Murders in the Building"
WHEN|WHERE Starts streaming June 28 on Hulu
WHAT IT'S ABOUT At the end of the first season, Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) was covered in blood — the blood of Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), the dyspeptic president of the Arconia's board, also longtime resident of 12A. Dets. Williams (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) and Krebs (Michael Rapaport), decide to squeeze all three members of the (now) hit podcast, "Only Murders in the Building." Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) is thrilled over the attention, but Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) is worried about any negative publicity because his old network cop procedural, "Brazzos," is about to be rebooted. Meanwhile, a famous comedian named Amy Schumer (Amy Schumer) has moved into the Arconia, while Bunny's mother (Shirley MacLaine) turns up as well.
MY SAY The first season was an unexpected breakout hit which — only in hindsight — should have been expected all along. There was that cast, New York setting, and twist on a hot genre (the true crime podcast), plus the predictable sendup of this overbaked genre. That functioned as sort of a broad wink to the audience, roughly interpreted as: We know that you know that we know this is ridiculous, but you got anything better to do (or watch?) At launch last Aug., we actually didn't.
But why in hindsight? Because the genre is so well-loved, specifically the Quirky Manhattan Bachelor one, going all the way back to "The Odd Couple," and continuing on through "Will & Grace," "Seinfeld'' and (more recently) Broadway's "Oh, Hello." There's something uniquely entertaining about a certain type of Upper West Side habitue who can't see past Riverside Drive or Central Park West and has no intention of ever traveling further north than 92nd St. or further south (heaven forbid) than Columbus Circle. Lovable cranks, they always seem to live in gorgeous prewar duplexes but still complain endlessly about Gristedes, the noise and the rats (nor could he or she possibly function any place else.) "Only Murders in the Building" got that type exactly right.
Nevertheless, the real genius of the show may have been Gomez's Mabel. With her retro-anti-fashionable name, old-soul personality and indeterminate sexual orientation, she brought the real mystery to the heart of the whodunit. Who was Mabel and why was she so content to hang with these two Upper West Side has-been habitués?
Expect few solid answers to that or any other prevailing question this season, but do expect the exact same formula. Riding up in the Arconia elevator with Oliver, Schumer characterizes it this way: "I wasn't that into murder before — murder podcasts — but you guys made if feel so cozy. Cozy murder!"
The cozy murder mystery this season is Bunny's — now affectionately referred to as "Bun-Bun" — which allows for a deeper exploration of her back story and, incidentally, her own particularly gorgeous duplex. As it would happen, Bun-Bun had a pet parrot named Mrs. Gambolini, which perfectly mimics her former owner's fulminations and possibly holds a clue to her murder as well. Meanwhile, Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) continues to find (and fabricate) material for her new competing podcast, "Only Murderers in the Building." The race is on to true crime podcasting glory. Will she unmask the murderer before Oliver, Charles and Mabel do, or will the real murderer be Cinda herself? (As usual, the malefactor will be someone we/they know. Cinda seems like a plausible candidate.)
The first eight episodes (those offered for review) go down effortlessly and, if none was particularly memorable, each was pleasurable. In a streaming/podcasting world stuffed with true-crime-all-the-time, "Only Murders" now actually feels like a necessary antidote to the real thing.
BOTTOM LINE Still fun, still the same.