When it comes to TV shows, there are times when the whole is greater than its parts. Nothing about the show’s cast, directors, writers, or synopsis seems so remarkable, but when they come together, they create something incredible. A good recent example of this is “The Bear,” which is one of the best shows of recent years despite its rather humble setup of a few angry people working in a sandwich shop in Chicago.
Then there are shows where the parts are bigger than the whole. Everything about the show seems to point to a winning combination, and it generates some buzz before it starts and even earns some undeserved goodwill from critics after the fact. Still, when the show airs, it may not be terrible, but it falls short of expectations.
This is the case of “Only Murders In The Building”. It’s not a bad show by any means, but given the fact that it has top-notch actors and writers and directors, and it’s people in New York who do a real podcast on crime is not exactly the success one might imagine. be. While there are some really funny moments and it creates a nice mystery throughout the two seasons, there are also some annoying moments that fall flat and taint the overall quality of the series.
A big part of what makes the show good is the two older stars, Martin Short and Steve Martin, who play Oliver Putnam and Charles-Haden Savage respectively. Additionally, most of the supporting actors also do a great job and add to the humor of the show. Like Short and Martin, many of them are also comic book veterans who fit easily into their roles.
As for the story, there are plenty of twists, though the second season seems to lean more on them than the first, grappling with a overabundance of subplots. It still manages to maintain its status as a true mystery, keeping audiences guessing until the very end.
Where the problems start to occur is with the writers’ obvious attempt to be diverse and relevant. It’s not that diversity per se is a problem – New York is a diverse place after all – but how it’s treated as a substitute for creating memorable and believable characters. Almost without exception, all non-white or LGBT characters are boring. This presents an uncomfortable contrast to the other more charismatic characters. Even Selena Gomez’s Mabel, the character who is at the heart of both seasons, is as dull as a plank of wood.
The second season also goes further by pushing the gay agenda with several gay characters, including Mabel who replaces her boyfriend from the first season with a girlfriend in the second, thrown into the story mainly for representational reasons. Neither Mabel’s lesbian affair nor her neighbor Howard’s gay affair have much bearing on the plot, and they’re not that interesting.
Part of the problem with this emphasis on diversity and representation is the acting. Gomez simply lacks emotional range and struggles to portray a character very different from himself. The same goes for most of the other actors in various roles, who only seem able to recite their lines and move the plot forward. The worst of them is Detective Williams played by Da’Vine Joy Rudolph whose overall performance is to swear and frown a lot.
The other part of the problem is writing. At no point are audiences really allowed to laugh at non-white LGBT characters the way they can with straight white characters. To do so would be somehow heinous. Therefore, these characters don’t really have any unique traits or humble moments.
By contrast, Charles and Oliver, despite being over 70, continually work on their weaknesses in a fun way. This is evident in too many scenes where Charles and Oliver crack jokes and act like normal people while Mabel is the implausible wet blanket that must get them focused.
What results from this dynamic is an uneven comedy that rises and falls depending on who is in the scene. Luckily, the majority of the scenes work and the show is generally enjoyable. Plus, the show has a winning formula that should allow it to work through these issues to make future seasons even better. The show’s diversity can and should be a real strength, but the writers and actors need to learn to accept their characters’ flaws and follies and have a little more fun next time around.