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Sunday, June 23, 2024
The Observer

Selena Gomez is the lifeblood of ‘Only Murders in the Building’

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Claire Kirner | The Observer
Claire Kirner | The Observer


Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez are an odd trio if I’ve ever seen one. Two comedy legends and a highly-accomplished child star are certainly not the first actors that come to mind when planning a murder mystery television series, and yet the quirky dynamic between the three is the piece of the puzzle that perfectly completes this spectacular true crime dramedy. 

“Only Murders in the Building,” created by John Hoffman and Steve Martin himself, centers around neighbors Charles-Haden Savage (Martin), Oliver Putnam (Short) and Mabel Mora (Gomez) who are all obsessed with the same true crime podcast. In response to a murder in their apartment building on the Upper West Side, the strangers start their own podcast as they bond together to conduct an investigation that only gets more complicated along the way. The series presents a brilliant new comedic take on crime fiction, and is a true delight to watch as we crawl out of a dark period in society. 

Charles, an actor who once played a detective in a popular television show, is missing the days when he was in his prime. Mishaps in his romantic life have turned him into a lonely old grump who struggles to be vulnerable and connect to others on a deep emotional level. Oliver is a Broadway producer whose career is similarly far behind him, but is quite different when it comes to personality. He is eccentric and lively and never stops talking about the musicals he once worked on, most of which were disasters. Mabel, however, is a character we know almost nothing about, making her a point of intrigue for the audience. All we can gather is that she has recently moved into the building, she has some sort of shady past and she has enough sarcasm for the three of them. As the investigation progresses, it becomes clear that she is extremely observant and has some ties to the victim of the murder, Tim Kono, but much of her character’s story is left as a mystery yet to be unraveled. 

One of the comedic aspects of the show that Gomez helps to tie together is the obvious chasm between Boomers and Millennials. The two older characters are stuck in their generational habits, signing their texts and mocking the slang used by young people. Mabel, on the other hand, comically labels Martin’s character as “Charles (old)” in her phone and mistakes Sting for a member of U2. The balance, and tension, between the two generations is a big part of what makes the series so appealing to all audiences. 

Martin and Short have been a sensational comedic duo for 35 years, starring alongside each other in films, taking their four-time Emmy-nominated comedy show on tour and even going on vacations together. One would think that another actor would simply be a third wheel when standing next to these two. Gomez, however, is the glue that holds the show together, bringing a sense of vibrancy and stability that places her on equal footing with her costars. 

“Only Murders in the Building” is quick, witty and mind-bendingly twisty. In September it was renewed for a second season, and audiences are hungry for more banter and mysteries with this unlikely trio. Tim Kono may be the victim around which the entire show is shaped, but the individual stories of each of the protagonists are yet another puzzle the audience wants to solve. Mabel, without a doubt, has the past we are most curious to unravel, and I cannot wait to watch Gomez continue to blossom in this dynamic and incredibly fun new series. 

Show: “Only Murders in the Building” Season 1 

Starring: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez 

Favorite Episodes: “Who is Tim Kono?,” “Twist” 

If you like: Knives Out, High Seas 

Where to watch: Hulu 

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5