Only Murders in the Building: Season 1 REVIEW – A Sleuthing Riot

Steve Martin, Martin Short & Selena Gomez all together in a TV series? Yes please.

Only Murders in the Building
Only Murders in the Building

I may be showing my age here, but remember the days of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries? We have our sleuthing crew, a bunch of red herrings, and a mystery solved by the time we reach the last page. Only Murders in the Building has a similar vibe, where the mystery isn’t exactly on the level of some of those HBO crime shows, but because the main characters are so fun and well-written, you just enjoy yourself a whole bunch.

It also helps that the main characters in question are played by Steve Martin and Martin Short (Charles and Oliver respectively), a comedic duo who never fail to deliver. The pair are still as electric as ever, so even if you don’t particularly care about the mystery, it’s a total riot to watch the two of them muck about on screen. Selena Gomez rounds up this trio with her acerbic portrayal of Mabel, who is witty but has a lot of dark secrets in her past. Gomez, who has a knack for comedy (fans of Wizards of Waverly Place would know this), absolutely holds her own with Martin and Short, which is no easy feat.

Charles, Oliver and Mabel all live in the same building (as you probably guessed from the title) on the Upper West Side. They all keep to themselves, with no reason to interact with one another, until someone pulls the fire alarm and the entire building is evacuated. The three end up in the same restaurant, and their interest in the same murder podcast (which they were all listening to before the fire alarm intervened) draws them together.

They return to discover that a suicide has occurred in the building – their neighbour Tim Kono (Julian Cihi) has killed himself. But, wait a minute: didn’t they all see him taking out his trash just a few hours before? Why would he do that if he was planning to take his own life? He was also impatiently waiting for a package, so none of this makes sense. Banded together in their love for true crime, the trio investigate, starting with fellow residents who live in the Arconia. Oliver, who used to be a theatre director, suggests that they create their own podcast, detailing the investigation as they go along.

Charles, an actor who has been on a creative hiatus since forever, eagerly agrees since this podcast would give him a creative outlet he most desperately needs. And Mabel? Well, she has her own reasons for being a part of it, which you’ll discover over the course of the series. For me, what I enjoyed most about the podcast aspect embedded in the series is how it highlights the importance of art in trying times. Charles suffers from social anxiety, so it’s difficult for him to invite people into his life, while Oliver is still recovering from the loss of his once glorious dramatic career. Mabel has suffered so many personal losses that it has kind of numbed her to the world around her.

The three of them, while working on this creative project together, find their voices and connect with people again. Their involvement in the podcast also draws them out of their insular shells, and their passion and commitment to the project inspires a whole community of supporters as well. So, to all the naysayers who claim that artists have no importance in a pandemic, just know that you are clearly wrong.

With ten bite-sized thirty minute episodes in the season, things move along at a good pace, and the series even takes the time to devote episodes to each of the characters. I especially enjoyed the episode revolving around Oliver – Short is just so enjoyable and larger than life. But more than that is the theatricality built into the episode, where it’s structured like an audition, with each of the suspects ‘auditioning’ for role of the murderer. The series considers the characterisation of each individual they wish to highlight, and creatively explores how to present each episode according to those traits.

Mabel’s episode has lots of flashbacks, while the episode from Charles’ point of view is very focused on the solitary nature of his life and home space. There is also a whole episode built around Theo Dimas (James Caverly), a deaf man who lives in the building. It was a jarring thing having an entire episode filled with so much silence, but it was very effective in communicating to us Theo’s life and his othered state in society.

There are some really entertaining guest stars that pop up in the course of the season, like Tina Fey and Sting, to name a couple. The episode with Sting is especially funny, due in part to all the straight-face comedic moments and Sting really going all out, playing a hyperbolic version of his rock star self.

I would totally recommend checking this out on Hulu – you can’t go wrong with a cast like that.

Review screener provided.

READ NEXT: 10 Best Bottle Episodes of TV Shows

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.

Only Murders in the Building
Only Murders in the Building offers up a huge plate of comedy - courtesy of the talents of the central trio - and the mystery is pretty compelling too.