Hulu is underrated among streaming services. Somehow, I often forget how much it offers. But June 28 is circled in (blood) red on my calendar because one of the best shows of 2021 is coming back: Only Murders in the Building.
The satirical dramedy was the show I recommended the most to friends, co-workers, acquaintances, even random strangers on the subway. Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez all give outstanding performances as apartment dwellers who strike up an unlikely friendship over their love of true crime podcasts and their interest in a neighbor’s suspicious death.
Season 1 ends with the trio solving the murder of Tim Kono, then landing in police custody when they are framed for killing Bunny, the persnickety president of the co-op board.
With Only Murders in the Building season 2 premiering soon, this is the perfect opportunity to binge the first season.
Why I love Only Murders in the Building
Only Murders in the Building is a delightful romp that acts as both a love letter to the true crime genre and a parody of it.
As you’re probably aware, true crime has exploded in popularity in recent years (though some might say it’s reaching oversaturation). Only Murders acknowledges the near-cult level interest that’s grown around true crime podcasts, documentaries and fictionalized series.
In fact, a podcast is what brings together the three main characters: former TV actor Charles Haden-Savage (Steve Martin); down-and-out Broadway director Oliver Putnam (Martin Short); and aimless aspiring designer Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez).
By chance, they meet on the elevator of their apartment building the Arconia, joined by neighbor Tim Kono on the phone. Later, after evacuating the building for an alarm, the trio bonds over their shared love of a certain true crime podcast hosted by Cinda Canning (Tina Fey playing a soundalike/stand-in for Serial’s Sarah Koenig).
The trio sneaks back into the Arconia, where they discover Tim’s dead body. The police rule his death a suicide but Charles, Oliver and Mabel think otherwise. They plunge into their own investigation, chronicling their efforts on a podcast of their own.
Despite their generational differences, Charles’ insecurities, Oliver’s vanity, and Mabel’s opaqueness, the three of them develop a real friendship. The way they bounce off one another is delightful. That’s entirely due to the excellent work of Martin, Short and Gomez.
Martin has always pulled off the curmudgeon well, but his physical comedy hits a peak. A sequence in the finale involving the elevator made me laugh so hard that tears began streaming down my face.
Short has perfected playing a narcissist over the years. And it’s clear that he and Martin are longtime and frequent collaborators. Their chemistry is effortless.
Gomez is the wild card, yet she fits in perfectly with her Boomer companions thanks to her dry, deadpan line delivery.
The Kono murder case actually becomes engrossing, taking the show beyond a simple satire. Seriously, you may put together your own murder board.
Why the critics love Only Murders in the Building
Not many shows get a perfect 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Only Murders in the Building counts itself in that rarified club.
Season 1 still holds that score after a whopping 102 reviews. Season 2 has also been Certified Fresh with 17 reviews.
IndieWire’s Ben Travers (opens in new tab) praised the first season “for its inventive, welcoming, and altogether immaculate design.” Glen Weldon at NPR (opens in new tab) called it “very funny, which isn’t particularly surprising — but it features grounded, satisfyingly nuanced performances from Martin and Short, which is.”
The Atlantic’s Shirley Li (opens in new tab) wrote, “The detective work is satisfying, but watching the investigation force the characters to reveal themselves and build an unanticipated bond is the real reward.”
Season 2 is also earning rave reviews. Alan Sepinwall at Rolling Stone (opens in new tab) writes that it’s “still tremendously entertaining and likable, and in some ways even better than the first in how it digs deep into characters who could so easily be cartoons.” Paste Magazine’s Allison Keene says “the comedic elements, once again, absolutely sparkle with mirth and absurdity.”
Only Murders in the Building is a wonderfully zany dramedy with a ton of heart. The casting is top-notch, even beyond the leads. Amy Ryan, Jane Lynch and Nathan Lane are the biggest names among the supporting cast, but it’s filled with many other recognizable faces like Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Jackie Hoffman. Not to mention Fey as a dead ringer for Koenig. Oh, and Sting is in it! As a murder suspect!
Since there are only 10 episodes running about a half hour each, you can easily catch up on season 1 over the weekend (or if you really get into it, in one afternoon). You’ll be ready when the plot thickens in season 2. More murder, mysteries and mayhem await!
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