Generation-gap murder mystery out of ideas

Over-acting, weak writing sink latest season of “Only Murders in the Building”

Only Murders in the Building
Where: Disney+
What: Series, Season 3, 10 episodes, 35 mins.
When: Tue., Aug., 8, new episodes weekly
Genre: Drama
Rating: NN (out of 5)
Why you should watch: If you really love Meryl Streep —who doesn’t? — she’s the one A-list guest that doesn’t over-act.

EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE HAVING A GREAT TIME making this Steve Martin-, Marin Short-created murder mystery series Only Murders in the Building, especially the A-list guest stars who jump in for this third season.

Too bad the audience isn’t having as much fun as the cast.

After a first season that charmed many as Martin and Short were joined by Selena Gomez creating reliable generation-gap chuckles as they solved crime, season two seemed a little tired; the latest effort fits somewhere between the previous two.

Clearly, it all must have looked like a blast because a boatload of big-time buddies is along for the ride, including returning “guest stars” Andrea Martin, Tina Fey and Nathan Lane plus new additions: Paul Rudd, Mathew Broderick, Jane Lynch and Meryl Streep.

Unfortunately, all of the guests except for Streep have adopted the campy, vampy over-the-top performance style that Short can barely get away with as the show’s foppish and quirky theatre director. What barely works for Short is unbearable in the hands of Martin, Lynch and others who over-play every scene and don’t care if we notice, like some kind of inside joke that only they get.

Any joke would be welcome on this largely laugh-free effort, though we are loudly “told” to laugh at over-acted scenes that don’t deliver but which the performers seem to find oh-so-clever.

The writing is sloppy with characters taking uncredible actions with even basic continuity lacking. When Gomez initially speaks with a deaf character, she purposefully faces them, both signing and clearly articulating, then — did she just give up? — she turns her back, stops signing with no apparent detrimental effect on the pair’s communication.

And the casual approach to the crime scene is absurd — even for a “light’ look at a murder.

But the biggest crime in Only Murders is an agonizingly long scene featuring Martin, who should worry that he’s getting too believable as an oafish, older dolt. Spoiler alert: Martin talks to a pet goldfish he has stuffed in a toilet tank — and talks and talks and talks.

And then he pisses and talks some more. You can almost hear his assembled actor friends, just outside the shot, breaking into cheers after the show’s director has yelled “Scene” and Martin humbly drinks in the applause for his “moment.”

Gomez increasingly seems like the poor, lonely kid stuck at a party populated with much older, duller relatives to endure. The fun chemistry and fertile ground of generation-gap jokes has disappeared.

Hard to imagine any of Gomez’s peers connecting with a show that has surrendered itself to the Tilley-hat-topped crowd.

Not surprisingly. Streep manages to rise above the material, her appearances a pleasant respite from the nonstop scene-munching of her fellow performers.

What was once a somewhat fresh and light-hearted show is now a dreary exercise in acting excess that’s well past its best-before date.