Understandably determined not to mess with success, “Only Murders in the Building” returns with a second season that self-consciously plays to its strengths, while layering the new mystery laid out by its cliffhanger ending on top of the old one. It’s every bit as breezy and fun, with lots of winking references to “Season 2” (the podcast, naturally, but you get the idea).
Having solved the murder that occupied their first adventure, the unlikely trio of Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) turn their attention to the next one of their neighbors to turn up dead. Plus, they have new cameos to spice up the proceedings, like Amy Schumer as Amy Schumer, who immediately pitches the beyond-receptive Oliver on the idea of transforming the podcast into a limited series, because, well, showbiz.
Being quirky can be harder than it looks, but the show nicely delivers on that – employing shifting narrators, finding a new (and humiliating) acting job for Charles and extending odd flourishes like having Jane Lynch play his stunt double, or more work for Tina Fey’s ruthless podcaster and her beleaguered assistant.
Once again, the mystery itself really doesn’t matter all that much, as the episodes move along with various clues and revelations while deriving most of their pleasure from odd moments, like Short delivering an homage to the movie “Last of the Mohicans” while trapped in a stairwell during a power outage.
While the show perhaps inevitably doesn’t feel quite as fresh this second time around, it gets plenty of mileage out of those small touches and the general obsession with true crime. Just practically speaking, the timing of its return seems designed to maximize its exposure with the next round of Emmy nominations due in a few weeks, which worked out pretty well for “Ted Lasso.”
“You can tell it’s our second season,” Oliver says at one point, referring to the podcast, but like everything else here, providing a kind of meta commentary on the workings of Hollywood and the show itself.
You can indeed, which doesn’t prevent “Only Murders” from living up to its modestly scaled ambitions and once again knocking ‘em dead.
“Only Murders in the Building” begins its second season June 28 on Hulu.