Only Murders in the Building

Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez kill in this excellent comedrama


Warning: This review contains minimal spoilers for season one of Only Murders in the Building.

Never would I expect to see Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez cast in the same television show, but the new hit show, Only Murders in the Building, does just that. The three all-star actors, all avid crime podcast listeners, record their own podcast, called Only Murders in the Building, to investigate a murder in their own New York City apartment building. Created by John Hoffman and Steve Martin, it is humorous, heartfelt, and adrenaline-inducing. The show’s vivid storytelling, delightful twists, and experimentation with the plot make it a worth-while binge.


The show takes place in a famous New York apartment building, “the Belnord”, but is referred to as “the Arconium” in the series. Three people, Oliver, Charles, and Mabel (played by Short, Martin, and Gomez respectively), connect at a restaurant late at night after a mysterious murder in their building forces an evacuation. There, they discover that they are all fans of a particular true-crime podcast, and decide to find the culprit behind the murder of Tim Kono, a wealthy young man. Throughout the season, there are plenty of twists and turns as the primary suspect remains fluid. The trio quickly learns that no one in the building is to be trusted. The switching of suspects can be boring at moments but always ends up being supplemented by a major revelation in their investigation. The relationship between the three characters grows tremendously as they learn more about each other and uncover secrets throughout the ten episodes. Something so effective about the show is that the central question of the story, “Who was Tim Kono?” remains the focus despite the different stories and perspectives the viewer witnesses throughout.

The acting is superb. Short, who plays Oliver, is the standout of the entire cast. His ability to make the viewer laugh at every funny line he delivers keeps the show humorous and provides movements of respite at times when the plot feels prolonged. His vulnerable and personal moments, particularly the dealing of his difficult relationship with his son, showcase his versatility as an actor. Even though at some points Oliver can get on your nerves, his charm helps the viewer to stay engaged and connected with him. The relationship between Oliver and Charles also is tremendously fun to watch, as the actors bounce off one another perfectly. Martin, who plays Charles, is cool as always. The role feels like it was written for him, as he perfectly portrays the many different sides of his character: a caring, regretful, serious, and often unintentionally humorous man. His character development grows the most of the three mains, as he finds a girlfriend, Jan, played by Amy Ryan (most recognizably Holly from The Office), and attempts to reconcile with his daughter. He and Mabel also form a strong and sweet bond, which is delightful to watch. Gomez, who plays Mabel, feels like the odd one out upon first glance. Though quickly the viewer realizes that Gomez is perfectly cast. Her young New Yorker feel, as well as consistent acting, make her the rock of the show. Personally, as a fan of her previous acting and music career, it is nostalgic and delightful to see Gomez back on screen. Mabel is an aspiring artist who is living/renovating her grandmother’s sizable apartment. In every episode, more and more revelations are uncovered, some of which spin the show in a whole new direction.


Standouts in the supporting cast include Amy Ryan, who plays Jan, Aaron Dominguez, who plays Oscar, a friend of Mabel’s, and famed Broadway and screen actor, Nathan Lane, who plays an investor named Teddy Dimmas. In addition to her romance with Charles, Jan is a bassoonist, which becomes central to her story. Her haunting bassoon playing every night and her suspicious longing to be a part of the murder mystery trio serves as a warning sign to the viewer. Oscar is a friend of Mabel’s who went to prison after a friend mysteriously fell off the roof of the Arconium years ago. With Oscar’s entrance onto the show, we learn about a group of friends who used to live in the Arconium, including Tim Kono. His seemingly dark past echoes throughout the storylines told, and he proves to be an interesting character to follow. Teddy Dimas is an investor media enthusiast who seizes on the opportunity to invest in the three’s new podcast. His storied past with Oliver makes the plot more complex, as the group investgates the murder further.


One of the most appreciable things about this show, other than the acting, is the attention to detail, setting, and broad appeal. For every person, there is a different type of cliche New Yorker. Oliver is a playwright that is searching for his next big idea, Charles is an actor in retirement, and Mabel is an aspiring artist: all roles that exhibit what are seemingly traits of a wide variety of residents within the city. The fashion is also distinctly New York, whether it’s with Gomez’s avant-garde fashion, Short’s eccentric outfits, and Martin’s simple, yet fashionable sweaters, suits, and hats. That kind of attention to detail makes it feel much more real and well thought-out. The genre of Murder Mystery is an old one, but the creators dreamt up an idea that was new and innovative but still told the classic tale of a murder in the big city. The intrigue of the plot, setting, and acting makes the show an immediate draw-in.

The ending of season one leaves plenty of anticipation for the now-confirmed second season, but I got enough resolution to last me until it comes out. Only Murders in the Building is a perfect example of an experiment gone right. It is a show that attempts to achieve broad appeal by blending the genres of humor and murder. If anything, it’s good fun.

Only Murders in the Building is available to stream on Hulu!