TV: Only Murders in the Building (Season 1)

As a mystery, Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building is merely a middling success, but fortunately it’s got a nice light-hearted comic touch to its quirky setting and characters. Set in a posh Manhattan apartment complex called the Arconia, the series features an unlikely trio whose coincidental fascination with true-crime podcasts brings them together when an actual murder occurs in their building. Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) is a once-famous TV actor known for his long-running detective series Brazzos. Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) is an eccentric Broadway director whose career has hit the skids. Then there’s Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez), a young woman living in a relative’s apartment while it’s under renovation. The three aren’t especially friendly with each other until they unexpectedly bond during a building-wide fire drill—which coincides with the death of an Arconia resident. The police hastily rule the case a suicide, but based on additional evidence they uncover, the trio finds the death suspicious, and they band together to continue the investigation, which they document in a podcast of their own.

As a puzzle-solving crime story, Only Murders in the Building isn’t exactly convincing, nor does it effectively sell the world of true-crime podcasts. Even so, there’s something cozy and relaxed about it that makes it easy to hand-wave away those concerns. Instead, the focus is on its oddball heroes and their interactions with each other and the many colorful New Yorkers in their building. It’s fun to see Martin and Short (who is particularly fun) working together again, with Gomez contributing to the dynamic as an unconventional third member of the trio, and there are enjoyable turns from a list of allies and suspects that includes Aaron Dominguez, Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Jane Lynch, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Amy Ryan, and Sting. This one isn’t diehard appointment viewing for me or anything, but it’s an appealing diversion.

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