Since Serial launched this golden age in true crime podcasts thousands of amateur sleuths obsess over details of grisly murders. True crime podcast obsessives have become a cult with their own forums and lingo. All of these people spend so much time thinking about crime that it begs the question: Are true crime podcasts making their listeners more paranoid or more prepared to solve a crime on their own?
This is the setting for Only Murders in the Building. It's a half-hour Hulu comedy about three people who share a commonality: they live in the same Upper West Side apartment block and are obsessed with a true crime podcast. These same strangers use their true crime knowledge to solve the murder of their neighbor while also creating a podcast.
The result is a hilarious, funny, and compelling comic adventure that draws on the strengths of its all-star cast to extract gold from true crime stereotypes. Steve Martin, the legendary actor who plays Charles is best known for his role as a slapstick detective in a 1970s procedural drama. Martin Short, the equally famous director of Broadway and off-off Broadway, plays Oliver. He hasn't worked for years but still shows a flair for staging drama. Selena Gomez plays Mabel, the mysterious millennial who has secrets, cool boots and more common sense that Oliver and Charles combined.
Martin and Short have both decades of comedy experience, but they also have a long history performing as a duo. Their chemistry and the magic timing that took them over 30 years to perfect is a huge benefit for Only Murders in the Building. The show's most entertaining and interesting scenes are those that see Charles and Oliver's dislikes melt into a partnership based around their fatherly affections for Mabel.
Charles and Oliver would not be friends without Mabel, even with the podcast. Selena Gomez is an executive producer of Only Murders with Martin and Short. She plays Mabel as a cool, sarcastic girl, but she also gives her a sweet vulnerability, which charms Charles and Oliver to an adorable "instant grandpa" mindset. Mabel is the show's most complex character. Gomez cleverly layers multiple meanings into Mabel's dialogue, keeping her neighbors (and the viewers) guessing.
Only Murders captures all the excitement of waiting for a new episode on a true crime podcast.
Only Murders in the Building has a fantastic script (Steve Martin is also a co-creator, writer, and producer of the show). The show is filled with fast-fire jokes and references that are accompanied by episodic callbacks. This makes it a rewarding show to watch more than once. It is also very New York-y. From the title credits and font deliberately evoking New Yorker covers to a series-long joke about an animated movie-turned-musical which isn't Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, but has harmed nearly as many actors. Only Murders doesn't go overboard with New Yorkness, or with any other aspect of the show. Each episode has a Goldilocks-esque quality that allows for no too much or too small. Everything is perfected by the experienced cast.
Only Murders in the Building can be watched all at once if you don't want to wait until the end. However, its twisty nature, jaw-dropping endings and cliffhangers make it an ideal week-to-week viewing. Only Murders captures all the excitement of waiting for a new podcast on true crime. It is the show that you can have half the fun of discussing theories with your friends as you wait for the next episode. Let's all get into our armchairs and put on our deerstalkers, we have a mystery to solve.
Hulu streams only Murders in the Building