I Finally Started 'Only Murders in the Building' And Have Thoughts

Only Murders in the Building Charles Steve Martin Mabel Selena Gomez Oliver Martin Short Hulu
Craig Blankenhorn / Hulu

“Only Murders in the Building” is back for Season 2 on Hulu. That, coupled with my Hulu free trial, makes it the perfect time to finally check out the hit show. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and New York City. What could possibly go wrong? I watched the first two episodes of Season 1 to find out if anything does.

For fans of comedy icons, Steve Martin and his “Three Amigos” co-star, Martin Short, “Only Murders in the Building” is a dream come true. The duo teaming up again within the framework of pop culture’s true crime obsession and the onslaught of genre podcasts like “Serial” provides lots of material to plumb gently. Add in Selena Gomez for a flare of millennial connectivity, and all the ingredients are sensationally present.

A topical plot, stellar cast, excellent setting, and a unique premise getting rolled into one project seldom happens. For the uninitiated, “Only Murders in the Building” follows a struggling actor (Steve Martin), a secretly struggling stage director (Martin Short), and their mysterious new neighbor (Selena Gomez) as they join forces to solve a murder mystery unfolding in their building.

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While solving that mystery, Martin Short’s cash-strapped Oliver decides it is the perfect time for him, Charles-Haden Savage (Martin), and Mabel (Gomez) to start their own true crime podcast. Never mind that they just met, and the death in their building has been ruled a suicide by the police. The trio has probable cause to investigate as the police’s answer to the grizzly puzzle features more than one jagged, ill-fitting piece.

Dark humor abounds with a balance of respect for the somber subject at hand. True crime is a cultural obsession based in a sensitive zone that makes poking fun at it quite distasteful. Co-created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, “Only Murders in the Building” finds a way to laugh with - instead of at - the topic.

It’s a fine line that “comedy podcasts” such as “True Crime Obsessed” and “My Favorite Murder” have tried to stride to varying success. In the Hulu series, you cannot help picking up on the criticism hidden between the lines. Questions surrounding the morality of true crime have kept many from sharing they watch or listen. Not anymore.

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True crime’s step beyond weekly installments of “Dateline” and “48 Hours” has extended to “prestige pieces” from HBO and, most notably, Netflix, as of late. Hulu is home to ABC’s “20/20,” FX’s recent spate of true crime docuseries, and Hulu’s own brilliant effort, “Captive Audience.” There is subsequently a lot to get into between television’s amplified relationship with true crime and the rise of podcasts.

One aspect ignored in the first two episodes of “Only Murders in the Building” Season 1 is YouTube. There are mega-successful channels like Kendall Rae, Christina Randall, and Bailey Sarian’s that shed light on true crime. In Rae’s case, drawing public attention to still-developing cases, the media has ignored or forgotten, bringing a renewed spotlight and resources to these ongoing tragedies.

Why do I mention this? Because admitting that you are a true crime aficionado, as the characters in “Only Murders in the Building” do, means bearing a certain stigma. Unlike many, Kendall Rae has mobilized her viewers to be active instead of reactive, garnering investigative interest in the process.

In contrast, one scene in Season 1 shows a disgruntled cop dressing down Martin Short’s, Steve Martin’s, and Selena Gomez’s characters for their questioning of their neighbor’s demise. In real life, such sleuths have proven helpful in solving crimes. It is rare, but it happens. Why would we watch a TV show where ordinary life occurred? Exactly.

A strange mix of sitcom and drama, “Only Murders in the Building” balances the dark with the light, finding comedy in situational awkwardness and the most tender of issues. The best part so far is seeing a millennial work alongside two mature gentlemen. Mabel could treat them better, but she is not as rude as expected.

As someone who grew up watching Martin Short (“Clifford” is one of the best comedies ever made) and Steve Martin (“Father of the Bride” - need I say more?), these two are iconic. I was nervous they would have to play the “dumb guys” who cannot keep up with the savvy millennial.

There is a streak of that in the first two episodes. However, the animosity is nonexistent. The potential for the start of an amazing friendship is contrastingly present. I am curious to continue Season 1 of “Only Murders in the Building” and possibly dabble with Season 2 before my free trial on Hulu expires. Wish me luck! New episodes of “Only Murders in the Building” Season 2 premiere Tuesdays on Hulu.