REVIEW: Trio of stars shine in hilarious new TV series ‘Only Murders in the Building’ on Hulu
Aug 31, 2021, 10:30 PM | Updated: Sep 1, 2021, 7:45 am
(Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)
SALT LAKE CITY — In my experience, a little bit of Martin Short goes a LONG way. Yet, in the new Hulu Original streaming series “Only Murders In the Building,” Short’s penchant for hamming it up to the point of annoyance actually fits into the show, rather than distracting from it.
In my opinion, that’s a rather amazing feat.
“Only Murders in the Building,” which debuted on Aug. 31, is a dramedy that follows three residents of the same posh apartment building, the Arconia, on New York City’s Upper West Side.
Charles (Steve Martin) is an actor who was famous for starring in a TV crime show years ago. Oliver (Short) is a Broadway producer and director who has fallen on some hard times personally and financially. Mabel (Selena Gomez) is actually poor, but the apartment belongs to her aunt and she’s living there while it’s being remodeled.
Like most stereotypical New Yorkers, though they live in the same building, they are strangers to each other for the most part.
But when a murder takes place in their building, the three bond after learning of each other’s love for true crime podcasts while having to wait outside their building while the police investigate the crime.
Since the show is in part lampooning America’s obsession with “murder shows,” all the amateur detectives the genre has produced, and seemingly everyone’s desire to create their own podcast, it comes as no surprise when Oliver (the producer who’s always looking for his next opportunity) points something out:
If they put their skills together, this murder could give the three of them the chance to create an as-it-happens, true crime investigative podcast of their own!
As their investigation unfolds, the three uncover complex secrets of the building which stretch back years, and viewers discover that not everything that the characters have told each other is entirely true.
It took me much of the first episode to finally get the feel for what kind of show and comedy style that co-writers John Hoffman and (Steve) Martin were going for. It’s very deadpan, but with the comedic skills that Short and Martin bring, it became very funny very quickly once I settled into the show’s rhythms.
One of the big questions for me going in was how Selena Gomez would do alongside the long-time acting vets, and the answer is that she meshes very well. She brings a young-Madeline-Kahn-type vibe with her deliberately monotone delivery and deadpan humor.
The writing seems to play to everyone’s strengths, letting Gomez react to Short and Martin rather than try to match them, letting Martin use his talent for physical comedy, and (miraculously) harnessing Short’s manic theatricality into genuinely funny moments. I’ve laughed out loud multiple times through the first three episodes.
In fact, the name of the series (and the title of the podcast in the show) is a joke almost made in passing about which of the many murders that happen in New York they’ll focus on.
Yet, because “Only Murders” is a pretty good mystery in and of itself, I also wonder if that tidbit will somehow also end up being relevant before the show is finished?
Cameos from familiar faces have been a fun surprise through the first three episodes, as have the surprising amount of references to my favorite detective book series when I was a youth, “The Hardy Boys.”
There are some content warnings, however. “Only Murders In the Building” is rated TV-MA. The first three episodes have strong language, as well as some blood and dismemberment that is played for laughs. This is not a show for kids.
I think it’s worth your time and effort to watch. However, you’ll know within the first two episodes if this is your type of series or not.
WHERE TO WATCH
The first season of “Only Murders in the Building” will reportedly have a total of 10 episodes, though it seems that Hulu is releasing the show much like a murder podcast: The first three episodes on day one (available now), then new episodes each Monday until its run is complete.
It is streaming exclusively on Hulu, where subscriptions start at $5.99 a month, including a one-month free trial.
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth is the movie and pop culture guy for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and (ahem) also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out some of his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.