‘Only Murders in the Building’ brings a comedic twist to true crime

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What do you do when a murderer strikes your apartment complex? Do you spend the following weeks cowering in fear? Start the process of selling your property? Or do you start a podcast trailing the crime?

In a newly released Hulu Original series, New York City dwellers Charles, Oliver and Mabel choose the last option, inspired by their mutual obsession with true-crime podcast “All Is Not OK In Oklahoma.”

The series dropped three episodes on Aug. 31, set for weekly releases and a total of ten episodes. It stars Steve Martin and Martin Short, comedic icons of the past, along with Selena Gomez in her first recurring television role since starring as Alex Russo in Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.”

Despite the time it’s been since the three actors held a prominent role on-screen, their stellar performance in “Only Murders in the Building” makes it clear they still got it. Martin plays Charles, an actor struggling to find a distinguished role after his longtime standing on a hit television show. Short transforms into Oliver, a theater director behind on payments after a failed attempt at putting together a musical. And Gomez rocks a fur coat and some red Beats as Mabel, a deadpan millennial who has a whirlwind of secrets encasing her past.

When their apartment building is evacuated one late night, the unlikely trio of two old men and a hip young woman get drinks at a bar and bond over a true-crime podcast, much like Sarah Koenig’s well-loved “Serial.” When they get the all-clear to return, they find that a fellow resident, Tim Konos, had died, in what the police rule as a textbook case of suicide. However, having shared an elevator with Konos merely moments before his death, Charles, Oliver and Mabel begin to suspect otherwise, deciding that the case would make for the perfect podcast premise.

Based on this endeavor, along with the fact that Dan Fogelman, creator of “This Is Us” helped produce this show, one might think that “Only Murders in the Building” follows the path of your typical drama series. However, it fits more along the lines of a dramedy, complete with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

Even though the show focuses on the quest to find Konos’ murderer, it takes full advantage of Martin and Short’s comedic skill sets. Notably, one scene depicts residents gathered in the lobby, in what was supposed to be a memorial for Konos. Instead of offering words of remembrance, they rejoice at finally being able to use their fireplaces – something that was prohibited due to Konos’ severe asthma – and end up shedding more tears over the resident’s dead cat.

“Only Murders in the Building” also hones in on generational differences, offering a hilarious dynamic as the two men rely on Mabel to scour the internet for clues. Upon finding out that Oliver doesn’t lock his doors, in spite of a murderer living in their building, Mabel sardonically says, “I guess old White guys are only afraid of colon cancer and societal change.”

Each living alone in their not-so-humble abode – seriously, they all have prime New York City real estate – they find a strange sense of comfort in running around the building and hunting for clues. Though the personalities of Charles, Oliver and Mabel don’t exactly mesh, the prospect of unraveling Mabel’s past only drives viewers to bear their bickering and stick around.

Taking the hype over true-crime podcasts into account, “Only Murders in the Building” tones down the gravity of the situation with its refreshing interjections of comedy to make the show more enjoyable than worrisome to watch. Unique in plot and wonderfully cast, this Hulu Original has much potential and is certainly worth the watch.

Rating: 4/5

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