‘Only Murders in the Building’ refreshingly reinvents the classic murder-mystery story

In a city filled with self-absorbed, isolated, and irritating people, it seems reasonable that New Yorkers rarely interact with their neighbours. Yet Hulu’s newest show Only Murders in the Building proves that boredom is a strong motivator for some to investigate the most despised person in their apartment complex. 

Created by John Hoffman and Steve Martin, this “whodunnit” series focusses on the humour of the mystery, rather than the circumstances of the murder—effectively subverting the traditional murder-mystery genre. Set in the Arconia, a luxurious apartment building in New York, three strangers bond over their love forof the same true-crime podcast—based off of the real podcast Serial— and narrated in the comedy by none other than Tina Fey. Comedy legend Steve Martin plays Charles, a lonely former actor who repulses most people he meets, except for Oliver (Martin Short), a washed-up, over-exuberant Broadway director. Mabel (Selena Gomez), a cryptic young woman, rounds out the comedy trio with dry wit and an ostensibly secret backstory that fills the entire subplot of the series. When the motley bunch learn that fellow tenant Tim Kono (Julian Cihi) has died, they decide to investigate with the sole purpose of creating their own true-crime podcast on the mystery, an obvious satire to the rise of true-crime media in popular culture.

Although Only Murders in the Building prefers cheesy flashbacks over any presentation of serious backstory, the ironic melodrama is bizarre and whimsical. The three unorganized and chaotic “detectives” are charming enough that their unrealistic misadventures add to the storyline. Tiny yet powerfully humorous details, such as Oliver’s intimate relationship with his bulldog, are the cherry on top of the cake. 

The show expertly blends themes of loneliness and failure with its more fantastical elements. Each main character experiences strained family ties, financial distress, and trauma, grounding the show in some of the common anxieties of a post-pandemic world. 

By intertwining comedy with the more complex aspects of the human condition, Only Murders in the Building is a refreshingly relatable modern dramedy. Though only the first three of 10 episodes have been released, the rest of the season is sure to include more comedic moments, plot twists, and hopefully, a solved murder mystery. And if not, releasing the trio’s chaotic true-crime podcast would be an acceptable alternative. 

Viewers can watch Only Murders in the Building on Hulu, where a new episode is released every Tuesday.

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