‘Only Murders in the Building’ review: Steve Martin delivers an all-round delight of a mystery-comedy

A still from ‘Only Murders in the Building’  

What fun this show is! With all its nods to crime stories, a ripping murder mystery, believable characters and charismatic leads, Only Murders in the Building is an all-round delight. Created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, the show tells of three people living in the posh Arconia apartment building on the Upper West Side, who all share a passion for true-crime podcasts.

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The three — Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) who was famous for his role in the ‘90s detective show Brazzos, Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), a struggling Broadway producer, whose best work is behind him and Mabel, a young woman who is living in her aunt’s apartment ostensibly renovating it — get together when another apartment resident, Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), is murdered.

Putnam floats the idea of turning their in-house murder into a podcast, and the other two enthusiastically jump in. In the true tradition of all crime stories, there are twists and turns galore with nothing as it seems, and everyone hiding something from the other.

The characters are nicely drawn. Lines between real and reel blur for Savage, who like all actors is extremely shy. Jane Lynch has a blast as Savage’s stunt double, Sazz Pataki, who also knows a lot about solving crime. Putnam is all about where he can get the money for his next big production, while hurting on the inside for having to ask his son Will (Ryan Broussard) for help.

Only Murders in the Building
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 10
  • Run time: 26 to 35 minutes
  • Creators: Steve Martin, John Hoffman
  • Starring: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, Aaron Dominguez, Amy Ryan
  • Storyline: Three true-crime podcast enthusiasts create their own program about a murder in their posh Upper West Side apartment building

Mabel has many secrets, including her former relationship with the victim, as well as Oscar (Aaron Dominguez), a friend who is just back from jail. Amy Ryan plays Jan, a bassoonist living in the same building, who is responsible for Savage taking the plunge in the dating waters again. Jan and Savage dating is very sweet, and also the cue for many bassoon jokes.

We have all met a Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), the persnickety board member in Arconia, and like Mabel, have wanted to stick knitting needles into them at some point between the formation of a quorum and deciding on the embroidery for the housekeeping uniforms... during many a tiresome GBM. The building manager, Ursula (Vanessa Aspillaga), with her many hustles is also familiar; I feel for Putnam and Savage and the many cases of gut milk they are stuck with.

The neighbours — from Oliver (Michael Cyril Creighton) whose cat died the same night as Tim, and therapist Stanley (Russell G. Jones), to deli owner Teddy Dimas (Nathan Lane) who is also Putnam’s long-time patron, his deaf son Theo (James Caverly), and Tim’s neighbour, Ndidi (Zainab Jah) — are all in the closed circle of suspects.

Though Detective Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) closes the case at first as a suicide, she later on begins to think something is not right when things do not add up. There is a 10-year-old murder, which might or might not have something to do with the present one. There is also stolen jewellery, a giant emerald ring, anonymous notes, poisonings and stabbings, merchandise and die-hard fans and celebrity cameos, including a jolly one by Sting. Tina Fey plays the host of the podcast that brings the three together.

Only Murders in the Building is well-written and the central mystery holds up fairly well to all genre fanatics’ scrutiny. The Hardy Boys (why not Nancy Drew though?) references are so heart-warming, the episode from Theo’s point of view is immersive, and the show has been renewed for the second season…

Only Murders in the Building is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar


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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 10:02:04 PM |

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