True crime has recently become an obsession in pop culture carving out its own slice of original shows, documentaries, podcasts, YouTube channels and even films. From serial killers to crimes of passion, getting information at the touch of a screen has become more convenient which allows fans to voice their opinions and share their conspiracy theories to the masses. These stories have a way of bringing people together to obsess about at the water cooler, offering different opinions and perspectives on motivations. Streaming services have a seemingly endless supply of stories to tell that normally wouldn’t get the exposure for those tragically taken.
Most of these stories are told from the victim’s perspective to keep their memories alive while a chunk of these stories are dedicated to the killer. Seeing what made them commit these heinous acts to further understand their mental health and decision making. Netflix’s Making a Murder became a phenomenon in which many documentaries followed on its coattails of success. Something about killers gets people’s attention – drawing comparisons to what happens in society. For society, these documentaries have made us more aware of our surroundings, pointing out personality traits for those that may need special attention.
Only Murders in the Building takes societies obsession with murder for those who commit the act, study the act as a hobby, and those who are victim to the act and gives it a comedic twist from creators Steve Martin and John Hoffman. A scripted murder mystery that takes place in the Arconia – When resident Tim Kono (Julian Cihi) suddenly is found dead as an apparent suicide, 3 reluctant residents, Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin), Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) decide to start a podcast titled “Only Murders in the Building” based on their love, appreciation, comradery, and obsession over a separate podcast “All Is Not OK in Oklahoma”.
Charles-Haden Savage – a former tv acter known for his most famous role Brazzos, Oliver – a Broadway director struggling to make ends meet, and Mabel – staying in her aunt’s apartment make up a trio of the least unlikely characters to befriend one another let alone start a podcast together. The three leading characters are brought to life by three very different yet charismatic performances who complement one another perfectly throughout the 10-episode season. Being a comedy, the dramatic moments aren’t undercut by for a cheap joke.
Additionally, for a more comedic show, the plot can be forgiven for being more surface level. It may not be on the Knives Out level of writing but it’s still solid. Don’t get me wrong, the story is written well to leave the viewer guessing who the murderer could be based on relationship to Tim Kono and the motivation for it. The death of a cat (off-screen) is more tragic than the death of Tim Kono.
The show even becomes self-aware in the back half of the season when fans of the podcast stake out the Arconia and are even involved for their outside perspective on the case. Leave to the charm and optimism of Oliver’s need to be liked by everyone while Charles would rather disappear and become invisible, and Mabel try to forget the past that doesn’t want to be moved on from to come together and solve this case. Every character is given their moment to shine over the others, but each are given the same amount of importance.
Added to the three energetic co-stars is an ensemble cast that also give great performances. From Tina Fey, Cara Delevingne, Nathan Lane, Jane Lynch to Sting (the musician), everyone brings high energy to their respective roles. What’s a murder mystery story without love? Charles piques the interest of a bassoonist Jan (Amy Ryan), and Mabel gets involved with one of her Hardy Boys Oscar (Aaron Dominguez) after he’s released from prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
The fact that Amy Ryan (most famous for playing Holly in The Office) is playing a character named Jan is beyond meta – even capturing the same mannerisms and body language as Melora Hardin.
Just when you think the murder has been found out, the writing team finds ways to keep the mystery alive and fun to solve along with the podcasters. We as the viewers know everything the main characters know making the investigation more impactful when new clues are found.
Just like with Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga), I never would have thought Selena Gomez could pull a performance the way she did. That’s not to deny her talent, Only Murders in the Building gives her the opportunity to show her range as a performer. She plays the sarcastic, enigmatic introvert perfectly.
What We Do in the Shadows better watch its back because Only Murder in the Building will give it a run for its money. From the charming charismatic trio leading the way, Only Murders in the Building takes what we all obsess over with true crime and adds its own flavor of comedy to it. At times mysterious and at times predictable (to a degree) there is not much to criticize about the series. It’s not perfect, but whatever flaws there may be, can be ignored for the fun ride you’ll embark on.
And there’s a doggo named Winnie, what more could you want?
Created By: Steve Martin & John Hoffman
Music By: Siddhartha Khosla
Cinematography: Chris Teague
Starring: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, Amy Ryan, Aaron Dominguez
Where to Watch: Hulu
Release Date: August 31, 2021
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
My Score: 4.5 out of 5