Episodes watched: 8 of 8
With the continuing strikes in the US, a drop in cinematic and televisual quality is to be expected. That threshold is fast approaching, especially as more and more anticipated titles are postponed. Unfortunately, Only Murders in the Building can’t hide behind that excuse (filming finished in April).
The scattered third season of John Hoffman and Steve Martin’s whodunnit meta-comedy is perhaps explained by their one-season-per-year formula, leaving little time for the writers to gather themselves. Maybe the lull of the strikes will provide adequate space to improve upon this passable dip in the series.
Left to right: Mabel (Selena Gomez), Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin). Photo: Disney/Hulu
The mild disappointment is built not only on the previous and superior adventures of wannabe true-crime podcasters Charles (Martin), Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez), but also on the deceptively promising start of season three. The season two cliffhanger introduced Paul Rudd as the arrogant movie star Ben Glenroy, who entered and then collapsed centre-stage as the lead of Oliver’s new Broadway show Death Rattle. Now, the cast and crew become suspects in a murder investigation.
The season flips between sleuth work and rehearsals, revealing how hated and respected Ben was. He’s like a twisted version of Rudd himself as an actor coming off a famous superhero franchise (here called Cobro), and the series loves poking fun – much as Paddington 2 ribs Hugh Grant. And despite playing a dead man, this is one of Rudd’s liveliest and funniest performances to date.
He's especially funny in scenes with Meryl Streep (yes: Meryl Streep) as Ben treats her character so poorly. Streep plays the nervous and late-blooming actress Loretta, who’s never had an opportunity prior to Death Rattle. Her mere presence is an extended joke – a deliberate inversion of her image – but she carries the part with a perfect sense of vulnerability and regret.
Left to right: Kimber (Ashley Park), Actor (Gerald Caesar) and Charles (Steve Martin). Photo: Disney/Hulu
The murder takes place outside the Arconia, the posh Upper West Side apartment complex constructed with a Shining-esque curiosity. It’s an understandable change: too many murders under one roof and habitation becomes less convincing. But the Arconia is such a characterful, idiosyncratic world – populated with such vivid residents – that to veer away feels unjust, like being forced to ghost a partner. Even when the writers slightly amend the end of season two, appearing to accommodate the building, most of the action takes place at the Gooseberry Theatre.
The season drops into a showbusiness satire, which, though absorbing and hilarious, diverts from the premise – exacerbated by the ill-conceived separation of the three central characters. Oliver’s busy with Death Rattle. Despite being in the production, Charles spends much of his free time with new partner Joy (Andrea Martin). And Mabel is in quarter-life crisis mode, facing an existential void at 29.
Although their scenes together are always amusing and connective, their absence as a trio removes much of the incredible chemistry that made the series so bingeable in the first place. They spend so much time apart that you wonder if there were scheduling conflicts between the actors.
There’s much to like in Only Murders, season three, chiefly the rhythmically funny dialogue and equally entertaining performances – 31-year-old Gomez proves just as funny as the septuagenarian comedy legends alongside her. But Hoffman and Martin strip away much of what was so addictively enjoyable about the series, struggling with their self-imposed changes.
Only Murders in the Building, season 3 is available on Disney+ from Tuesday 8 August (episodes dropping weekly).
|What||Only Murders in the Building, season 3, Disney+ review|
08 Aug 23 – 08 Aug 24, ON DISNEY+
|Website||Click here for more information|