It’s been so long since Steve Martin starred in something quality, that I can’t tell if Only Murders In The Building (Disney+) is a triumphant return to form or simply a course correction after two truly awful Pink Panther films.
I think I’ll take it though because having him back on our screens and doing work that doesn’t make you weep for the passing of his glory days is a pleasant novelty.
In the 10-part whodunnit, Martin stars with Martin Short and Selena Gomez as amateur sleuths investigating a suspicious death in their affluent New York apartment building.
Martin plays Charles, star of an old telly cop show called Brazzos, whose solitary life gets a jolt of excitement when he teams up with unsuccessful theatre director Oliver (Short) and artist Mabel (Gomez) to create a podcast about the death, which police have labelled a suicide.
If you are one of those people who spends a lot of time listening to true crime podcasts, you’ll find much to enjoy in the premise, which takes great pleasure in lampooning some of the tropes of the form.
Only Murders In The Building still stands on its own two feet as a proper murder mystery that does a decent job of sucking you in.”
But even if you’ve never heard a second of one, Only Murders In The Building still stands on its own two feet as a proper murder mystery that does a decent job of sucking you in.
I do still wonder if my enjoyment of it is down to the Steve Martin factor.
He co-created the series (with John Hoffman) and wrote the pilot and I suspect his influence extended to some of the surreal fantasy sequences that pepper the series, some of which reminded me of his superb 1991 film LA Story.
Would I still be watching if he wasn’t involved? Possibly not, but if you’re a fan of his work there’s definitely enough good stuff here to make it worth your time.
It’s grim up north
Although all the episodes of The North Water (BBC2) are available to watch on iPlayer now, this is one series I think it’s best to watch on a weekly basis.
Intense is not the word.
Colin Farrell plays harpooner Henry Drax – who the publicity department at the BBC happily calls “a murderous psychopath” – and it’s his job to make the viewer feel anxious in the pit of their stomach every time he steps on the screen.
Anyone who enjoyed The Terror recently may get a sense of deja vu, but whereas the crew in that series only encountered the monster when they reached the icy wilderness, in The North Water the monster is onboard from the start.
Grim but compelling.
Documentary scores, even if you don’t like football
It’s testament to the compelling way it was told that even an avowed non-football fan like myself could enjoy Fever Pitch! The Rise of the Premier League (BBC2).
Charting the evolution of the game since Rupert Murdoch paid £300 million to show games live on Sky in 1992, it was a nostalgic look at how the game got to where it is today.
My ignorance of football might be clouding my judgment – I’ve no idea how many of the stories told by stars like Eric Cantona and Alan Shearer were new or whether the fact this was made by David Beckham’s production company influenced its rose-tintedness – but the fact I wanted to watch it all is notable.
If you’ve got a White Lotus-shaped hole in your TV watching life, I have the perfect replacement.
Enlightened was the series that writer-director Mike White created before The White Lotus and it’s now available to watch in its entirety on Sky or Now TV.
It stars Laura Dern as a woman who returns to her workplace after having a very public nervous breakdown and it’s every bit as cringy and brilliant.
Film of the week: Johnny Guitar (TCM, 8.55am, Sunday)
For a film that’s such a celebration of female empowerment, it’s unfortunate that it takes the name of a secondary male character.
But make no mistake, this is 100% Joan Crawford’s film, and her performance as tough-as-nails Wild West saloonkeeper Vienna stands the test of time. In fact, it was so far ahead of its time it feels modern, even now.
The plot itself is pretty standard – it involves outlaws, ex-lovers of Vienna’s and a bitter rival (the wonderful Mercedes McCambridge) – but what sticks in the memory long after the film ends is how stylised it all looks (it was shot using a process called Trucolor that transforms the western landscape into the stuff of dreams) and the more-than-strong hints at same-sex attraction between Crawford and McCambridge.
A genre-bending and gender-bending masterpiece.