It's fitting the new season of Only Murders in the Building should revolve around a mysterious painting considering this synesthetic gem stands as a piece of visual art as much as it does a lesson in how to produce generation-spanning entertainment.
Close to the best thing on TV last year, Hulu's OMITB returns for season two on Disney+ from June 28.
It's a delight, a privilege, really, to be back in the swanky (albeit fictitious) Arconia complex in New York's Upper West Side, where we can once again bumble about with Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez.
Like all good sequels, we pick up from where we left off; our intrepid trio of true crime podcasters finding themselves persons of interest in the bloody death of the strata's irascible board president, Bunny.
Bunny is played by Jayne Houdyshell, a Tony Award-winning actress who, like the rest of the adroitly picked cast, brings so much depth to this laugh-out-loud series and is clearly having the time of her life. You can feel the fun in almost every performance, regardless of screen time. From the ever-reliable Michael Rapaport's poetically sweary detective to Jackie Hoffman's quintessentially no-nonsense Big Apple broad to Shirley MacLaine's old-moneyed matriarch (so good to see her back in "The Apartment"), everyone seems on the same page, that is, fully aware of what a rare bird to which they've been lucky enough to find themselves attached.
And adhering sensibly to the mantra of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", the second season of the Allenesque OMITB isn't interested in implementing structural change, even to the point of including a big-name star very much in on the joke and more than willing to poke fun at themselves.
In season two, this spot is being occupied by the marvellous Amy Schumer, who is literally replacing rocker Sting by moving into his Arconia penthouse. We know Sting is leaving the building because some of his household items, including a box marked "Sting's rainsticks", trundle past on a trolley, just one of the sly, blink-and-you'll-miss-it gags which flutter about the Arconia like gorgeous, silly butterflies.
Schumer is a tour de force of self-aware self-deprecation ("I shouldn't have opened my tiny little mouth") mixed with a ruthlessness belying her hard-earned place in the comedy pantheon ("I only sued Judd Apatow") and, on top of this, her wardrobe is jaw-dropping.
And perhaps this is the true genius of OMITB, a series co-created by showrunner John Hoffman and Martin, the purported custodian of one of the finest collections of modern art in private hands.
Every single scene in their creation is a feast for the eyes, we ride a sumptuous spectrum of near perfection in costuming and set design. Thematic tableaus of autumnal hues and deep, dark blues run through living rooms and board rooms. A blue blazer speaks to a stack of blue water bottles, a red hoodie reaches out to a red exit sign.
Perhaps not since Peter Greenaway's 1989 baroque masterpiece The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover has there been such an audacious splash of compartmentalised colour brought to the screen.
It would be nice to think this is no mistake and maybe, just maybe, the stabbing strings which open season two of OMITB is a nod to Michael Nyman's indelible score to Greenaway's film. And Bunny's parrot, Mrs Gambolini - possibly a feathered, foul-mouthed, homage to Michael Gambon's grotesque mobster cum foodie Albert Spica?
We can only hope.
Art, that competing universe of facileness and profundity, especially on this side of the bridge, serves as the cornerstone of season two. It's a world in which Martin is obviously well-versed and OMITB joins his novel, An Object of Beauty, as an ongoing dissection of the industry's place in the (well-heeled) American psyche.
Despite his brains, talent and impeccable taste, Martin has never seemed entirely comfortable in this space, an unease played out time and time again in his work. He's the kid from Waco who loved TV, learned magic tricks and comedic timing at Disneyland and stumbled into mega-fame wearing a white suit and an arrow through his head. Now, as named-checked years ago by Samantha in Sex and the City, Martin is "the toast of The New Yorker".
Talk about imposter syndrome.
To this end, an erotic painting is not only this season's MacGuffin, it serves as a symbol for that which fuels New York itself; familial wealth, generational mobility; sheer luck and dogged perseverance.
Bookending our nudie canvas caper is Mabel's journey into the avant-garde, as she falls under the spell of Cara Delevingne's creepy curator, signalling art can be as destructive as it can be uplifting.
But away from The Mets and Guggenheims, in Only Murders in the Building, fundamentally, we have "cozy murder" and joyous entertainment as delivered by masters at the top of their game.
If that isn't true art, then nothing is.
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