One of the best things about Peak TV, a.k.a. TV’s platinum era, has been the room it has carved out for our national treasures, some of whom are doing their best work ever. Folks like Henry Winker on “Barry” and Jean Smart on “Hacks,” of course. And then there’s Emmy-nominated “Only Murders in the Building” stars Steve Martin and Martin Short.
The duo’s fandom spans several generations. My parents grew up with them on “SNL” and “SCTV.” (To be fair, I was watching with them, perhaps inappropriately, also loving their work as a child of the 80s.) Over the past few years, my kids have gotten to know them as I’ve brought out “Three Amigos” and “Father of the Bride” for family movie nights.
And now, we have “Only Murders in the Building” for every age range. How lucky are we to live in a time where we get to see the two pals, meshed with Selena Gomez, doing some of the best work of their lengthy careers?
I had to ring up “Only Murders” executive producer John Hoffman (who also co-created the show with Martin) to congratulate him on the show’s Emmy nomination haul, and also ask just what it’s like to write for these legends.
“I’m so excited to talk about it because that was of course my first thought when joining the show was, ‘I’m dealing with two national treasures. That’s a challenge,’” he says. “I was confronted with these very open, very generous, very collaborative gentlemen. And their energy on the set, the kindness they bring, the humor… I get to see how hard they work at making it look easy and effortless. And the professional level of consideration they give every moment, from script to performing it on set to editing. I cannot overstate the incredible treasured value I have found in partnership with them creatively. They work their asses off and they come out and make it look easy and breezy.”
That was completely on display a few weeks ago when my wife and I attended a July 4th weekend event at the Hollywood Bowl, featuring Martin, Short and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The comedians make light of their ages — Martin is 76, Short is 72 — and yet their energy on stage is incredible.
“It’s really something, and to carry that off in the way that they do,” Hoffman says. “There’s no creakiness with these guys. I saw them in Vegas a week before the Bowl, and that was the thing I came away with too. Marty is flying all over the stage, and I can only imagine, the Bowl is quadruple the size of the stage in Vegas. And Steve has the razor sharp timing that he lands in the most effortless way. Anyone who gets to see them right now feels lucky.”
But really what is helping both Martin and Short in doing perhaps the deepest work of their careers is their inspired pairing with Selena Gomez, who absolutely deserved an Emmy nomination alongside her co-stars. Why does this unlikely trio work so well? Hoffman has a theory for that as well.
“They let Selena Gomez find her space within them,” Hoffman says. “And that speaks to everything about the generosity of the way they work. And also the recognition of a force coming at them that they weren’t necessarily expecting or predicting. They’re challenged by her in the best way… I’ve been trying to put my finger on the magic of the trio of this show. And I’m like, well, we’ve got the two youngest spirits matched up with the most elegant old soul and neither of them reflect any of their ages.”