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The Real Pleasure in Only Murders in the Building

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Mabel (Selena Gomez), Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin) in Only Murders in the Building. (Craig Blankenhorn/ Hulu) It’s not the plotlines. It’s the New Yorkiness of the show.

I was intrigued by the idea of a comedy that spoofs true-crime podcasts . . . but then I discovered something that changed everything.

The enjoyable new Hulu series Only Murders in the Building, starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, is an amusing but trifling comedy-murder-mystery. The drawn-out nature of the thing — one red herring after another gets brought in and dispensed with — is its weakest aspect. Netflix’s Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston comedy Murder Mystery was both funnier and narratively tighter.

Only Murders in the Building will present ten half-hour episodes, of which I’ve seen eight. After the first four or five, I pretty much lost interest in the plot, which strikes me as contrived for the sake of chewing up time rather than for any internal, organic reason. Nevertheless, I tore through those eight half-hours because I loved everything but the supposed main reason to watch the show.

The cast is delightful: Even Martin Short, who has annoyed me for more than 30 years with his mugging and his silly voices, is amusing in it, while in a straight-man role Steve Martin exudes likeability as always. As for Gomez, as she showed in Woody Allen’s otherwise mediocre A Rainy Day in New York, she is a true movie star with impeccable comic timing. Filling out the background are sly appearances by Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, and Sting.

Non–New Yorkers, you can stop reading now. Go do something else. You’ll be bored by everything I have to say. Not only will you be bored; you may want to slap me with a large mackerel. I don’t want to be fish-slapped, so I’m giving you an out. See ya later!

What most interests me about the show, which probably would have been better had it played up the comedy instead of the not-especially-grabby mystery, is that Martin, Fey, and Sting are all Upper

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