I don’t listen to many podcasts. I don’t listen to any true-crime podcasts even though I know they’re very popular among many people. True-crime, itself, is a genre that is so popular all the major networks have or had weekly shows devoted to it. It’s all over the cable TV and streaming services.
The popularity of the Pamela Smart, Jodia Aras, Menedez Brothers and especially O.J. Simpson trials made Americans see both the best and worst things about the criminal justice system. I’m not surprised people were so fascinated by the O.J. Simpson trial and so upset when the court proceedings didn’t go like in the movies or on TV.
I covered crime and courts for over 10 years. It is not something you will find entertaining. There are no Perry Mason movements. There are no major conspiracies. If you have a dead person who was stabbed or shot and you think a spouse or relative did it, the vast majority of times, you’re correct.
Most murders are crimes of passions resulting from arguments or people foolishly thinking an insurance policy will pay them well if they kill someone else. But that’s the problem. Insurance companies are looking for any reason to delay or not even issue a check payment. People aren’t smart and they aren’t like Hannibal Lecter.
The show Only Murders in the Building is about the fascination with true-crime podcasts and how it can link people who seem to have nothing in common.
Steve Martin plays Charles-Haden Savage, an aging actor who used to have a hit police procedural show in the late 1980s, early 1990s called Brazzos. He hasn’t had much work in the last few years and what little we know about his personal life is that his significant other left him. He also makes omelets that he immediately throws away. He lives on the 14th floor of the Arconia, a fictional upscale apartment building in Manhattan.
His neighbors in the building include Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), a flamboyant but also aging former Broadway director who had a flop that destroyed his career. There’s also Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez), who claims she’s renovating the apartment that belongs to her aunt.
One night, the fire alarm causes them to evacuate where they all meet up at a nearby restaurant by chance and realize they all are fans of the same true-crime podcast “Everything Is Not OK In Oklahoma.” When they return, they discover the police are investigating a death of a resident instead of a possible fire.
It just so happens the resident is Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), who was on the elevator earlier in the day with all three of them. Police think it is a suicide but Tim was talking on a cell phone about eagerly wanting a package.
They then decide that some things don’t make sense, such as why Kono was carrying a trash bag but there are trash chutes on each floor. And the package and its contents are a mystery as Charles-Haden and Mabel sneak into another’s apartment to snatch the package as it was delivered to the wrong person.
To say anymore would ruin the surprise of this series has already aired three episodes on Hulu, all of which dropped on Aug. 31 and there will be a new episode each Tuesday for the next several weeks. Charles-Haden, Oliver and Mabel decided to start their own podcast as they have suspicions and want to uncover what exactly happened.
Martin and Short are perfect in their roles. I’ve seen a few true-crime series in which a lot of people want to play detective and you realize that it’s more about them than the case. Martin and Short have had a great history of playing characters who are for lack of a better word, selfish. They’ve played arrogant people but they’ve done so in a way that is both believable and charming. Gomez is also good in her role as Mabel. If you haven’t seen the first three episodes, all I’m going to say is that she knows Tim more than just a casual person who’d see in the hallways or on the elevator.
What we do find out is that not a lot of people liked Tim but I feel this will be explained further in the subsequent episodes. Tim kept the rest of the residents from using their fireplaces because of his asthma and had many complaints filed against him.
But the episodes have focused some more on Charles-Haden and Oliver to give them a little depth. We find out why Charles-Haden makes the omelets he doesn’t eat. We also learn that Oliver is financially struggling. In a bit of meta-humor, Oliver used his own finances to help fund a musical of Splash that was in the vein of Spider-Man: Turn Out the Dark. There’s a lot of humor in the interactions between Martin and Short. They’ve performed together so long and so many times you can tell them working off each other.
One of the best jokes is when Oliver begins to tell a story in the elevator but is interrupted when it stops at his floor. As he is leaving, Steve says, “Even the elevator wanted that story to end.”
Martin created this series with John Robert Hoffman and it’s a perfect blend of black comedy and thrilling mystery. There’s just enough hints to what may or may not have happened to Tim that it’ll have viewers turning in every week.