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Only Murders In The Building: Finally A Crime Series That Doesn’t Leave You Feeling Drained

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Within five minutes of episode one, Only Murders in the Building lets viewers know what it intends to be- stylish, urban, witty and awkward, and till the end, the series rarely disappoints. Set in Manhattan’s posh Arconia apartment complex, Only Murders in the Building is about rich people and their dirty secrets, but instead of descending into the darkness with that narrative, the series coats itself in cappuccino froth and perky autumn colours. For me, this was the perfect antidote to the harrowing House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths, which forced me to take a break from true crime documentaries.

This Hulu series (which can be streamed in India on Disney+ Hotstar) is led by three inexperienced sleuths, who start their own true-crime podcast after a man named Tim Kono is murdered in their building. Steve Martin’s Charles Haden-Savage is a television actor past his prime, who once played a detective in a show named “Brazzos” and continues to bump into strangers who urge him to mouth his famous lines from the show. On the other hand, Martin Short’s Oliver Putnam is struggling to avoid eviction from Arconia, having lost most of his money and glory as a Broadway director.

If you stop here, Savage and Putnam make for a perfect pair of sleuths- they are the same age and have contrasting personalities. Savage has accepted his fate as a bygone star and while he pines for a romantic company, in a sense he seems settled as any single man at his age can be. Putnam on the other hand is overenthusiastic and full of bizarre ideas that he burdens on others in an attempt to save his long-dead career. But then, creators Steve Martin and John Hoffman mix things up, and we have an unlikely addition to the team in form of Mabel Mora (played by Selena Gomez), a young woman who lives in her aunt’s apartment and has more secrets in her closet than the two men combined.

So, here’s what I loved a lot about Only Murders in a Building, apart from its overall look and treatment – the way it plays on the generational gap between its three leads, never letting gender into the dynamics. The three characters are very much aware of the age difference. For instance in one sequence, Savage and Putnam wonder whether they should text or call their young accomplice, when Martin’s character says, “Calls bother them for some reason.” Then in another scene, Mable tells Savage that it is not necessary for him to sign off a text with his name. Then there is a conversation about Beats headphones between Putnam and Mable, which the former thinks as a “cool connection” but his young companion finds awkward at best.

The chemistry between Savage, Putnam and More as partners in crime (solving) is natural and likeable and it is great to see a young woman hang out without a care in the world with two older men who never leer at her or try to put her down for being a woman.

When I started watching this show, I was not sure if Gomez, Martin and Short would be able to pull it off and sell us this odd trio of modern goofy sleuths with the only common thing between them being their love for a true-crime podcast. But the cast proved me wrong. This brings us to the show’s tongue-in-cheek take on true-crime podcasts and the commercialisation of one person’s tragedy for another man’s entertainment. How desperate can things get for investigative podcasts? In one scene, a fan of the show tells Putnam and Mabel, “We are dying for the next episode,” to which Martin’s character retorts, “We may be too.”

The web series has its share of shortcomings, the trio gets out of sticky situations way too easily, and in the end, some things about the conclusion offered don’t add up. But you can still watch it if you like Hardy Boys mysteries that are entertaining and don’t make you question humanity, the idea of New York that Karan Johar has been selling us for two decades and for Selena’s gorgeous outfits. I so want to get my hands on one of her winter coats, pair it with oversized headphones and then fly to New York to walk around the streets of Manhattan, just to experience that vibe and for the fun of it – also the two things that are making me look forward to season 2 of the show.

Check out the trailer of the series here:

Views expressed are the author’s own.


Suggested Reading:

House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths- Going Beyond Unsettling Details

5 New Must-Watch OTT Releases To Burn Stress This Weekend

Why Films Like “Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein” Don’t Seem So Cool Now