When I was a kid, I thought Innerspace (1987) was the pinnacle of film. Lt. Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) is placed in a pod, shrunk, and mistakenly injected into Jack Putter (Martin Short) instead of a Rabbit. As may be expected, lots of plot twists ensue. I must have seen this movie multiple times when young because images of Short, specifically of his nose, are some of my first visual memories.
Short was the leading man in my life for years until I met Ted Danson at my grandmother’s house while viewing the final episode of Cheers in 1993. But Short held my heart and my visual field until then, and possibly after. Until that is, I saw him as Jiminy Glick, and I lost interest. Santa Clauss 3 didn’t help much either. Though I never saw Father of the Bride and am therefore not being entirely fair to his oeuvre, suffice it to say, my love affair waned after that.
I watched Only Murders in the Building because I heard Brent Forrester (producer and writer on The Office and King of the Hill) say that it, along with Cheers, was one of the top 5 best TV pilots. Since I agree about the first episode Cheers, for Danson and other reasons, I needed to check out this show that was being met with similar accolades.
Suddenly, I fell back in love with Martin Short. I was stunned by the scene where his character Oliver Putnam leaves his son’s house after being denied much-needed financial help, gets a text about a lead on the podcast, and slowly falls off the porch before lightly bouncing up. The literalization of the metaphorical bounce back follows through to Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) and Charles Haden-Savage (Steve Martin). Still, neither of their moments are as stunning or as transparently heartbreaking as Oliver’s.
While the whole show is lovely, and the acting is top-notch, Oliver captured my heart. I was hooked from his imaginary directing of the Arconia residents to his inspirational pitch for Splash the Musical, which affectionately doubled as his retelling of how he met and started dating his ex-wife, to his beautiful scarves. Only Murders in the Building reaffirmed why Steve Martin, Selena Gomez, Nathan Lane, and Amy Ryan are comedy giants. It also reacquainted me with the man who shares my early memories with my childhood dog, grandmother, and an apartment building on Staten Island.
I haven’t watched Innerspace in decades, and I am sure it will not live up to my childhood reverie of it. I doubt it is the epitome of film. But I still remember Short’s nose. I still have that memory. It might, after all these years, be worth a rewatch. I can thank Only Murders in the Building for reminding me of when I first fell in love with film.
Erik Fuhrer is the author of 6 poetry collections, most recently, Eye Apocalypse (2021). They can be found at www.erik-fuhrer.com.