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Only Murders in the Building excelled at tackling the thorny ethics of true-crime podcasts

  • The Hulu mystery series isn't the first to poke fun at the true-crime podcasting craze. American Vandal and Saturday Night Live have done it before. "But Only Murders in the Building is more a dramedy than it is a comedy," says Eliana Dockterman. "And to its credit, the show is deeply interested in the inner lives of its many side characters, from a jaded police detective to the deaf son of the podcast’s key advertiser. By treating its characters (and suspects) with such respect, the show seems more willing than its predecessors to wrestle with the thorny ethical conundrums of true-crime podcasting." Dockterman adds: "The true strength of the show is elucidating the ethical complications of true-crime podcasting. Many a podcaster has been accused of over-sympathizing with whatever accused person they are trying to vindicate. Only Murders exaggerates the connections between reporter and subject. The podcast creators literally live in the building where the murder took place, after all. They literally share the elevator with their prime suspects. And multiple characters become romantically entangled with possible suspects. Still, by giving its protagonists personal investment in the case, Only Murders gently nods toward how difficult it is for a reporter to remain objective when embedded in a story. In real life, podcasters sometimes overly romanticize their subjects: To make the listener care about the crime, the creators need to compel the listener to care about the victim. Only Murders challenges that practice, too."


    • Only Murders has a satisfying end to Season 1: "Over these initial 10 episodes, John Hoffman and Steve Martin’s charming blend of ensemble comedy, murder-mystery, and light true-crime satire isn’t sweating the small stuff," says Ben Travers. "Built with fine craftsmanship (as evidenced in everything from the envy-inducing costumes to the inviting apartment interiors) and fully aware of its leads’ palpable star power, Only Murders in the Building knows it’s light entertainment packed with many a savvy touch. To find room for each element of their genre hybrid, the creative team dances between overt meta humor and moving personal journeys, occasionally finding improbable means of melding the two."
    • Selena Gomez's performance, quiet but also wickedly funny, really is key to Only Murders: "Her downbeat affect through much of the series is a sort of bridge between two professional comedians," says Robert Lloyd. "Though she’s as in need of connection of any of them, she’s also the most grounded of the trio; she keeps it from turning into the Three Stooges Meet the Anconia Killer."
    • Amy Ryan thinks her Only Murders character had more in common with her Oscar-nominated performance in Gone Baby Gone: "The choices that you get to make are quite endless, because who’s to say what is true and honest for them?” says Ryan. “They’re already so off the wall.”
    • Ryan on her finale outfit: "Oh my God, I love it," she says. "They gave me that outfit when I left. I don’t know if I can really wear it now — maybe around the house, it might spook people. I love the clothes that they put Jan in. We kept finding shoulders that were femininely cut — lots of puffy shoulders. When I filmed this series last January through April, I came out of sweatpants and got to wear all those clothes, which was such a delight."
    • Co-creator John Hoffman on the chemistry between Selena Gomez, Steve Martin and Martin Short: "I hope their chemistry was a big surprise for everyone who sees the show," he says. "It was something we were hinting at, understanding, and imagining but boy, the first time we heard them read together over Zoom it immediately hit all of us. It was the first time we heard Selena read with the guys and it was just immediate. That’s when we realized, “This is going to work,” and she came to play. It was thrilling to see her match up with them and not just holding her own but also building a lane for herself with these guys."
    • Hoffman on Only Murder's opening credits: "We hired this brilliant company, Elastic," he says. "They were unbelievable partners—everyone there, but in particular this artist, Lisa Bolan, who got what we were trying to do and how we wanted to feel New York, feel the mystery and comedy. Just something elegant. Siddhartha Khosla penned this amazing theme. It was all separate pieces, so it all came together. Jess was particularly driven; he loves the clues and secrets within every opening sequence. There’s a tip of the hat to Ozark and Game Of Thrones and all those ways in which a little shift happens. You go, 'Oh, I’m teased for the episode to come.' I just loved the credits for the tone they set. I love that we put them in deeper into the episodes, so that you hang with it. A lot of people say to me, 'I never fast-forward through that. It’s fun.' Every second you get someone’s attention for a television show, I feel like you owe them something a little bit unique. That’s what we were trying to do there."
    • Hoffman discusses the Season 1 finale and previews Season 2

    TOPICS: Only Murders In The Building , Hulu, John Hoffman, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, Steve Martin