Culture Pick | Comedy veterans take on murder mystery in ‘Only Murders in the Building’

Bhavana Ravala | @bhavravala, Managing Editor

A hidden gem in Hulu’s catalog is the new TV show “Only Murders in the Building.” This bingeworthy series takes the classic whodunit elements you know and love — wealthy suspects, cryptic messages, red herrings — and blends them into a delightful comedy featuring a star-studded cast that will keep you up all night unraveling the mystery.

The show has quickly won over critics and viewers alike, and was renewed for a second season last month despite the first season still being in progress. Clearly, people want more, and for good reason. 

Set in the Arconia apartment building of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the story centers on three neighbors: Charles, Oliver and Mabel. Charles and Oliver are portrayed by comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short respectively, while Disney Channel alumna Selena Gomez plays Mabel. 

This unlikely trio ends up bonding with each other over their shared love for true crime podcasts. When a real-life murder mystery begins in the Arconia building, they jump at the chance to solve it and share their investigation with the world through their own podcast, Only Murders in the Building.

The engaging nature of this show comes from its use of unconventional combinations to breathe new life into the well-worn murder mystery genre. Martin and Short are two experienced actors in the comedy world who have worked together many times during their careers and are close friends in real life. 

Adding a third person to their well-established dynamic would prove to be a challenge for any casting director. The choice of Gomez may seem preposterous.

However, in case you forgot, Gomez can act. She is well-versed in dry humor, as evidenced by her leading role on “Wizards of Waverly Place.” 

In true Alex Russo fashion, Gomez brings quick wit and enviable outfits to her role as Mabel. Her chemistry with Martin and Short hooks the audience from the first episode, especially as the characters’ backstories unfold and it becomes clear there is more than one mystery to be solved.

The trio is supported by several characters during its investigation. From Tina Fey to Sting, immensely funny and notable faces pop up throughout the show to add layers to the story. Don’t be fooled by the humor of these actors, though. The twists and turns throughout each episode will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

The titular podcast proves to be a clever and comedic storytelling device that helps set the show apart from similar plotlines. It is successful because it’s something viewers find relatable as thousands of podcasts are available to us directly from our phones, allowing the show to deliver commentary on our society’s true crime obsession while still proving to be a prime example of entertaining crime fiction. Producing the podcast is what introduces the main trio to new friends and enemies as their audience grows. 

In addition to the characters and plot, all the little pieces of the show work together to create the ultimate mystery comedy. From the lighthearted soundtrack to the creative framing shots, each detail is meticulously crafted to draw the viewer into the world of the Arconia. 

Despite being set in the present day, the series has a nostalgic quality to it, reminding the audience of previous feel-good mystery adventures like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. It’s the perfect fall watch to get you through midterm season. 

“Only Murders in the Building” is available to stream on Hulu, which has a discount for student subscriptions. The season finale will premiere on Tuesday, Oct. 19 — make sure you’re caught up for what’s sure to be a thrilling conclusion. 

Questions? Email the Culture desk at culture@cw.ua.edu.