Review: The New Selena Gomez, Steve Martin & Martin Short Series ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Is an Undeniable Riot
*Minor spoilers ahead*
As August comes to a close, one of the newest shows to hit Hulu is the highly-anticipated Only Murders in the Building. This comedic mystery series stars Selena Gomez, Steve Martin and Martin Short as three New Yorkers living in the same apartment building who band together to start solving murders on a true-crime podcast when a man mysteriously dies in their complex.
Now, if you're like me, you probably saw those three names in the top billing and thought: Huh? Martin and Short had previously worked together in The Father of the Bride, but the idea of these two comedic legends teaming up with the Disney Channel alum certainly had me intrigued, to say the least. But upon watching the first episode, it's easy to say that Martin, who also created the series, has crafted something magical, unexpected and often hilarious.
In the beginning of the series, our three leads are introduced with individual voiceovers that quickly give us a sense of who they are as characters. Martin portrays Charles, a washed-up actor, who hasn't nabbed a major role since he was on a TV series in the ’90s. Gomez plays Mabel, a dark and mysterious young woman who's living in her aunt's apartment on the promise that she'll renovate it. And Short (in a scene-stealing performance) is Oliver, an optimistic, dog-touting director who is struggling to find his next project.
Each reflects on the excitement and unpredictability of New York City, which is perhaps a meta commentary on how the three come together as friends. When a fire alarm goes off in their building one night, the trio serendipitously end up in the same restaurant and discover they all enjoy the same true-crime podcast. However, the stakes get a lot higher when a man commits suicide in their building and the three decide to start digging up clues that indicate his death may not be what it seems.
Part of what makes Only Murders in the Building so enjoyable is its perfect blend of genres. In the first episode alone, we get glimpses of each character's complicated history. We learn that Charles has seemingly lost a partner, while Mabel reveals that she had a close group of friends that fell apart. Oliver can't pay his bills and he's having to borrow money from his son. The pilot gives enough of a tease that we want to learn more about these characters, specifically Mabel, whose story is purposefully left very ambiguous, and her intentions are always called into question.
But the fun is also that Only Murders doesn't try to take itself too seriously. Short's performance is full of a jollity and playfulness that contrasts the dry wit of his confidants. Meanwhile, the writers sprinkle in small moments of humor, like a scene where the three run into a private investigator who goes on a rant about “true-crime nuts.”
While the show can feel a bit cheesy at times, it even spins those moments into clever tricks. For instance, toward the end of the episode, the three decide to start a podcast where they can narrate their investigations, and we realize that the voiceovers from the beginning of the episode are actually the recordings from their podcast.
All in all, the series is an exciting trip that offers plenty of laughs and enough mystery to get viewers on board. While these three characters coming together may seem a little unlikely, their chemistry is enough to keep the series rolling and the self-aware writing will be sure to please any true-crime fans. (And I won't spoil it, but the first episode ends on a cliffhanger that already has me racing to watch the next episode.)
PureWow Rating: 4.5 Stars
Only Murders in the Building is a refreshing, delightful series that finds three talents unexpectedly coming together in a story that is full of laughs and that offers plenty of mystery. Although it can be a little cheesy at times, Only Murders manages an incredible balance of genres, and true-crime fans will certainly find something to love.
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