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TV review: 'Only Murders in the Building' begins its 2nd season on Hulu


Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez are teaming up again for a second season of Hulu's true crime satire "Only Murders In The Building." NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the show has only grown more confident and entertaining the second time around.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: One of the deepest pleasures of "Only Murders In The Building" is the comic chemistry between the show's three leads, including two guys who've been in show business far longer than the third star has been alive. Last season, the three played true crime podcast fans who solved a murder in their apartment building, the Arconia, on New York City's Upper West Side, creating a popular podcast in the process. As the second season begins, Gomez's character, Mabel Mora, has been accused of killing the Arconia's board president. Martin's washed-up actor Charlie Savage and Short's faded stage director Oliver Putnam want to prove her innocence but can't believe a rival podcast host is already releasing a show about the crime.


MARTIN SHORT: (As Oliver Putnam) She's stealing our format. We did invent that format, right?

SELENA GOMEZ: (As Mabel Mora) The format where we drop a true crime podcast before we even have a story, an ending or even a crime? Yeah, that's all us.

SHORT: (As Oliver) You know, Cindy Canning is very lucky that my attorney passed away.

STEVE MARTIN: (As Charles-Haden Savage) I thought you said he was disbarred.

SHORT: (As Oliver) This is no time for semantics, Charles. She's stealing our format.

DEGGANS: "Only Murders In The Building" is actually a delicious balancing act in lots of ways. It satirizes true crime podcasts, upper-middle-class New York apartment life, celebrity culture, media, baby boomers and much more. In a flash, it can vault from a moment where a character is discovering something important and personal to the stickiest of jokes about fame or name dropping. Consider this exchange where Mabel admits to Oliver that her romance with a character from the first season is probably over, which leads him to drop a bit of fatherly advice.


SHORT: (As Oliver) When you're in danger, it's all passion and sex. But then when things settle down, it's hard to know what comes next. That's why Judi Dench and I lost touch after that infamous ride on the Concorde.

GOMEZ: (As Mabel) That never happened, right?

SHORT: (As Oliver) God, you really get me.

DEGGANS: You almost want to hear a rim shot at the end of that scene. The real treat of the show's second season is to see how confidently it moves through all the show's different styles and tones, particularly its celebrity cameos. This season, they have sidesplitting appearances from Shirley MacLaine, Roy Wood Jr., Jane Lynch and Amy Schumer, who plays herself, revealing an oddly age-inappropriate crush on Martin's character when they meet.


AMY SCHUMER: (As Amy Schumer) Charles-Haden Savage. I had a poster of you on my ceiling, the shirtless one on the bearskin rug. Oh, I wanted chest hair because of you.

MARTIN: (As Charles) And you got it, too.

SCHUMER: (As Amy Schumer) As a little girl, I would practice my signature - Amy Schumer Savage, A-S-S.

MARTIN: (As Charles) Oh. Thank you?

DEGGANS: The second season spends more time on the backstory of Martin's character, whose father had a bizarre and discomfiting connection to the apartment building. They also delve into the life of the murdered board president, a crusty, lifelong resident named Bunny, showing that even the toughest New Yorker can have a more tender history, as evidenced by Oliver's narration for their podcast episode about her.


SHORT: (As Oliver) What would your last day on Earth be like? Will it be like any other? Or will it point to it being your time? As we recreate Bunny's, we hope it will take us to clues - and please, dear God - not the subway.

DEGGANS: I think it's safe to say that Martin, Gomez, Short and their crew will take audiences on an even better adventure in this second season, stepping up their game at a time when we all could really use a few more laughs.

I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.