Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Only Murders in the Building

I get asked a lot about what I think of ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING.  It stars Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez and is currently running on Hulu.  

The short answer is I like it.  It’s pleasant.  It’s a nice diversion.  It’s well-mounted.  Looks great.  Love the opening titles. And there is an occasional chuckle along the way.  I’ve watched every episode and will continue to do so.  So it’s good.  

But I don’t love it.

I feel it could be funnier.  And it feels like there’s a lot of padding.  I wish the story would move faster.  I wouldn’t mind if it slows down to do some hilarious scene, but so far that hasn’t been the case.

I just get the sense that Steve Martin is holding back.  I see opportunities like he and Martin Short going to Sting’s apartment suspecting he’s the killer.  I thought, okay, this could be hysterical.  It wasn’t.  It was mildly amusing.  And I’m frustrated because I know Steve Martin could write funnier (or guide the writers).  So it’s clearly a choice.  Same with a scene with Tina Fey.  

I’m not going to get into the plot at all.   I will say Selena Gomez has far exceeded my expectations.  

Another issue, and I don’t blame the creative team at all for this one.  Commercials.  They drive me nuts.  Yes, I know I could pay more to have Hulu commercial-free, but you know what?  I’m already paying them.  Netflix doesn’t have commercials.  HBO Max doesn’t have commercials.  Apple + doesn’t have commercials.  So the end result is I rarely watch Hulu.  It has to be a show I really want to see.  And at some point I might just unsubscribe.  I’m currently paying for seven streaming channels.   So if I’m sitting through commercials, the shows better damn well be worth it.  ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING is good.  Is it good enough for four interruptions?   That’s another unsolved question.  

What do you guys think? 

47 comments :

Mark said...

Aargh. I know how you feel. The commercials drove me crazy. I paid for the Disney+ bundle so I could get Hulu and Disney+ without the commercials. It was worth the extra five dollars.

James Prichard said...

Hi Ken. I feel even less excited about the show. It's ... OK. The pacing is too slow, there's a lot of filler and, for a comedy with Steve Martin and Martin Short, it's amazingly short (no pun intended) on big laughs. Selena Gomez is fine, which is a surprise. But, unlike you, I didn't think there was enough "there there" to keep my interest, so I stopped watching after the fourth episode. It has been renewed for a second season, so I'll probably check back in then. And, in all fairness, commercial-free Hulu is no more expensive than Netflix or HBO Max.

David Bilbey said...

I also enjoy it and plan on continuing to watch. I have not experienced your inconvenience with the ad breaks, but I could see how that would distract. I enjoy the whimsy, but the show feels understated. At first, this forbearance built tension, but when the tension doesn't resolve into humor, it becomes stifling. Maybe Martin is trying too hard to be the straight man to Short's clownery. The show delights me, but I agree there seems to be more potential waiting to be realized. I hope it blooms.

Lemuel said...

I remember THE LONELY GUY, which seems to have been purged from Martin's resume. The scene when he's standing on a rooftop crying out his sweetheart's name...

Howard Carter said...

We're four episodes in and so far it's "meh"... definitely seems a bit slow, and we haven't really laughed at it so far (a lot of smiling)

ventucky said...

I dumped Netflix 3 months ago because there was never anything I wanted to watch. May rejoin later. Hulu within commercials is worth the extra $5 or so. As for Only Murders in the Building, Martin Short is terrible. Overacts every scene playing the same Martin Short character where he thinks he is funny, but he is just obnoxious.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I signed up for Hulu as an experiment with cord-cutting and I'm not real happy with it so far. The website is not very user-friendly. If I'm gonna pay for another service, I might bite the bullet at try Disney

as Only Murders: Yeah, pleasant diversion, not laugh-out loud funny, Steve Martin should do more, Martin Short a bit less (the on-stage thing with suspects is dragged out), Selena Gomez, who I only knew as one of the names of various young people that pop up on the internet a lot, is great. More stuff on the different characters, in both senses of the word, might have been fun.

Curt Alliaume said...

My wife really likes the show. I've only watched clips (and the Late Show interview with all three stars, which was mildly amusing).

I get what you mean about Hulu and the commercials. We have it as part of the Disney+ bundle package (Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+), and for that it's probably worth it. Hulu currently has the best roster of off-network reruns worth watching when I'm in the mood and don't want to run to the DVD player (How I Met Your Mother, Frasier, M*A*S*H, Cheers, and as of last week Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

Chris G said...

I have to say I don't much mind the commercials - the breaks tend to be short, 90 seconds or less, and take less time that fast forwarding through a commercial break on our cable company DVR did.

Alan Light said...

f.y.i. - HBO MAX introduced an advertising-supported version 3 months ago, for $9.99 ($5 less than ad-free). It's always worth paying to get rid of ads in my opinion. I even pay YouTube $12.99 a month to get rid of them and I feel lucky the option is available.

Ted. said...

I won't watch any streaming service with commercials. They're terrible, repetitive, unskippable, and they make it virtually impossible to rewind or fast-forward a show. (What's even worse is when the company throws in multiple public-service announcements -- as if to say, "We couldn't sell enough ads, but we'll use up these spots anyway just to prove that your time belongs to us.") Not only are these interruptions worse than the pain-free viewing experience on a service like Netflix (even if most of their programming is pretty mediocre), they're also worse than on old-fashioned network broadcast TV -- where the ads are generally better-produced, less repetitive, and you can DVR-forward or change the channel if you want. So for streaming services that offer different tiers, I'll either pay more for the commercial-free level or (more likely) not subscribe at all.

jenmoon said...

Steve Martin lost interest in being funny a lot of years ago. We just have to accept that. (Ditto Bruce Willis, who is a totally different guy than he was on Moonlighting.)

But other than that, I'm entertained.

Pat Reeder said...

I wanted to check this show out since I like Steve Martin and Martin Short. But I'm not going to pay for another streaming channel just to see one show. I have Netflix because a relative who was staying with us was addicted to it (I'll probably cancel it now that she's moved out) and Amazon Prime because they toss it in when I pay for the free shipping, but that's it.

I was really taken aback when you said you subscribe to seven streaming channels. I have the two, and that's far more TV than I have time to watch. How much longer can this go on, with multiple channels all expecting people to pay $10 or so a month just because they like one show? If I decide I want to see "Ted Lasso," I can wait until it's on DVD, buy a whole season for two months' worth of the subscription cost, and have it forever. Or just check it out of the library. Those do still exist.

And when I consider that most of what I enjoy watching these days doesn't even come from Hollywood but from individual content creators on YouTube, I can't imagine spending that much money on TV.

Jon Weisman said...

As someone whose kids watched every episode of Selena Gomez's Disney Channel show, "Wizards of Waverly Place" several years ago, I'm not at all surprised she is good in this. She always brought a very un-Disney like edge to her performance, even as a teenager.

I agree with many others in that I enjoy "Only Murders" but also wish it were better.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Two of the greatest comedy legends of all time teaming up with a tweeny-bop pop starlet? Oh yeah, that sounds like a winning combination all right. What next: Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd team up with Taylor Swift? And what is it with these pop stars trying to transition into movie careers when they can't even act? It's bad enough when their music is all over the radio, we don't need their faces all over our screens as well.

Kai said...

@Pat Reeder:

That's an option IF they decide to sell the show on DVD. Amazon doesn't do that as far as I know and I have not yet seen any Apple or Disney+ titles available on disc. They WANT you to subscribe.

benson said...

I agree with all the criticisms of this series. And Jon Weisman said it best. I wish it was better. But I say that about pretty much every thing I've seen in the past few years with the exception of Ted Lasso.

I wanted to love Schmigadoon. I liked Mrs. Maisel, but not enough to stay past the first season. I like Kaminsky Method, but again, I keep saying I need to back to it.

keith brodkorb said...

All good points, the commercial breaks are not too bad, yes the plot moves slow, but the one thing that really irritates me and the wife, the over the top of the f-word use. Seems like they are using the word just because they can. I feel it is lazy writing. And in normal conversation if you are constantly cursing you would not be pleasant to be around. I keep wanting to see if Martin Scorsese is one of the writers. Normal people have some restraint when cursing, usually just when you need to vent. Makes it real hard to have on when the younger ones are still up. At the very least they could get creative in the use of the magic words, and if you are wondering yes I do curse and after 35 years as a garbageman I can roll with the best, but I really try not to use this language at home or IN front of the wife and all kids. Just good manners.

Jeff Maxwell said...

I watch with no commercials. With three such cute people on the screen, how could it not be cute? It’s cute.

But I really like the idea of Bill Murray, Dan Aykrod and Talor Swift. Bet that trio would be cute and edgy.

YEKIMI said...

Ad....ARGGGGGH! I watch some Facebook video stuff and about a couple of minutes in an ad pops up [10-15 seconds but even so.] soon as it pops up, I'm gone. Not going to watch whatever it was they were trying to show me. Now they're starting it at the beginning of the videos because I guess a lot of people were bailing as soon as the ad began. Guess what? Start it at the beginning, I'm gone. So I see no ad and no video that I am sure the content creators would like me to watch. Your friend, Mark Evanier, had a link to a video that I really wanted to see. After they SEVENTH ad at the beginning, I finally bailed. Who knows, there could have been 16 ads at the beginning. Life's too short for me to watch bullshit ads whose product I will never buy, whose product has no appeal to me and whose product I would NEVER use [FDS spray or something like it].

Ere I Saw Elba said...

I think they need to go into a room and discover that it's Chevy Chase, and recreate THE THREE AMIGOS, and girl realizes she was being set up for a practical joke all along.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Tubi is like the giant DVD bin at Big Lots, filled with weird, obscure and classic public domain movies and TV shows. The commercials are worth it and when you're watching something like "The Monster on from the Ocean Floor" (Roger Corman's first film) or "Teenagers from Outer Space," an interruption does not disrupt the "artistry."

Joseph Scarbrough said...

For those complaining about ads and commercials . . . this is why you install adblockers. Trust me, they will be your best friends, and you won't have to have your videos interrupted by ads at any point.

Tom Asher said...

Glad you did this because I was curious about your opinion. We enjoy it... it could move faster, and could be funnier, but it's adequate... and adequate is a good thing in our house, compared to most of the other stuff on...

maxdebryn said...

Oh please, let's not recreate THE THREE AMIGOS.

Guffman said...

Anyone who gets Hulu without paying for the "no commercials" upgrade is a videomasochist. (And I totally agree with your review, Ken.)

Buttermilk Sky said...

Completely unsolicited endorsement: I downloaded AdBlocker (which is FREE) when the commercials on YouTube became intolerable. I will never go back, and even sent AdBlocker a donation. I don't know if it would work on other streaming services. You can suspend it when a site demands you look at their ads to access a newspaper article, for instance.

I also keep forgetting to watch the third season of KOMINSKY METHOD. My interest level went way down when Alan Arkin left.

I recommend WORTH on Netflix, about the lawyer who had to apportion government money to survivors of 9/11 victims. I don't know why it hasn't had much notice. Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci are excellent.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Having grown up with commercials on broadcast TV they really don't bother me. However, if I was paying for a TV service then I would be disturbed by ads.

I have never thought that Martin Short was funny even back in his "SCTV" days. Although, I thought his character, Jiminy Glick was mildly humorous.

Steve Martin was relatively funny when he first started out, but got less and less funny as time went on. And no. I'm not a fan of his movies including "The Jerk," "Roxanne," etc.

Political correctness prevents me from saying why I like Selena Gomez.

Bottom line, I wouldn't pay for this show/streaming service even if I could afford it.

M.B.

JS said...

Made it through Episode 3 Loved the first 2 episodes didn't like this one It dragged. I really hope this isn't going to become a series I want to watch, versus, I've made it this far I might as well keep going to the end.

Gomez seems wooden to me, but maybe that is how she is being directed.

As for commercials - if I'm paying I'm getting commercial-free. Having said that, I just switch around every month or two. One month Hulu, one month Netflix etc.

MikeKPa. said...

I watched one episode and couldn't get into it.

Brian said...

For years, Steve Martin has seemed torn between being funny and...something else. In the days of "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" and "Shopgirl," he was torn between being funny and showing the world that he was a Deep Thinker. Now, he seems torn between being funny and...I'm not sure what he thinks he's doing now that's more important than being funny. But it's something. I'd hate to think this show represents his current idea of being funny.

Also, the whole thing just seems so out-of-touch. In the first episode, everybody is upset because the alarm in the building prevents them from listening to the podcast that they're all addicted to. But people don't listen to podcasts like that. People listen to podcasts on their own time. It's not like the old days when, if you were watching a TV show and got called away, you wouldn't be able to catch the episode until it came around again during the summer rerun season. It feels like Steve Martin (or whoever's writing this stuff) doesn't know what a podcast is. The whole thing reminds me of late-period Woody Allen, the work of someone so cut off that he no longer has a feel for how people live or how people talk.

gottacook said...

Brian, funny you should mention Woody Allen - two weeks ago I decided to watch A Rainy Day in New York on Amazon (in three or four segments over a few days). I had no previous idea who Selena Gomez was, but as it turned out, she was by far the best thing about the picture. She rose above the "old hat"-ness of the script, certainly.

Mark said...

I'm thrilled that Steve Martin is holding back. I haven't thought he or his writing was funny in years. He tries too hard. That stupidity with the puppet coming out of his fly is a perfect example. I'd much rather watch him play the banjo. But in this he's subtle, and I love that.

Ted. said...

Re Selena Gomez as a tweeny-bop starlet: You might be surprised to learn, as I was, that she's 29. That's old enough to play a teenager's parent on the CW.

sueK2001 said...

I love the series. It's a nice diversion and it keeps my interest. As far as funny, it has it's moments but nothing has made laugh hysterically since The Middle went off the air...and before that, it was Frasier.

I think Steve is amusing but he's probably reached the age where he doesn't have to prove himself. This seems like a vanity project for him.

I will say that his focus for the last decade has been his music career. He's a helluva banjo player and has had several great bluegrass albums. He's earned my adoration for an eternity by introducing the world to the Kruger Brothers Americana band during an appearance on the Letterman Show around 2015.

maxdebryn said...

Sort of on topic, I think: Ken, do you subscribe to Paramount Plus ? I have been a subscriber since they were called CBS All Access, largely so I could watch THE GOOD FIGHT, which I love. At first, I had the plan with commercials, but they annoyed the bejesus out of me, so I switched to the no commercials plan. I like that many episodes of THE GOOD FIGHT aren't an hour long, which is also the case with another Paramount Plus show that I really enjoy, called EVIL. EVIL was created by Robert & Michelle King, and it's a hoot. Well worth a watch.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Mike Bloodworth Ah, go ahead, we're all adults with critical and analytics minds here.

@Ted That remark was more in regards to her genre of music rather than her age.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Here's a FQ for you, Ken, which may actually be a 2-parter:

What are you thoughts on producers/directors recycling their own jokes and gags across different projects they work on? One specific example I can give is Bill Asher recreating the famous chocolate factory scene he directed from I LOVE LUCY in an episode of BEWITCHED he directed - right down to the conveyor belt speeding up. Friz Freleng also recycled a number of gags from the LOONEY TUNES shorts he directed in various shorts produced for his own studio years later like THE PINK PANTHER.

And, in this day and age of corporate control, if producers/directors tried pulling this off if they bounce from one studio to another, would the previous studio litigate over perceived plagiarism/copyright infringement, even if it was the same individual who's recycling the same joke/gag that they conceived? (Like, if it happened today, would Desilu threaten legal action against Asher for copying that scene from their program for another, even if he directed both?)

Rich said...

This, for me, is another phase of something that began with "Martin & Short: An Evening You'll Never Remember." The astonishing thing about Steve Martin in the 1970s was how DIFFERENT he was. He deconstructed the comedy business in a way that no one could put back together. He did an act where the punchline was that there was no punchline. (Read "Born Standing Up.") Every comedy lover I knew was sure that "the next thing had arrived." When I saw the Martin/Short special, I was saddened to see that Martin had re-made himself into a conventional comedian. Nothing special, no surprises, nothing interesting about what he was doing. He's still a smart, funny guy but he seems happy with not stretching. "A good meal at a reasonable price" as Jay Leon said about his own act.

Randy @ WCG Comics said...

I was partly looking forward to this because, as an earlier commenter mentioned, I had seen Selena Gomez in Woody Allen's Rainy Day in New York and thought she was the best thing in it and terrific--I was really impressed by her there and it made me a fan. For those who dismiss her for being a "teeny bopper" pop singer, remember that she cut her teeth as a Disney channel comedy star, so she clearly has the chops. She has an acerbic delivery that really distinguishes her. Martin originally envisioned it for three old characters and I think it was a stroke of inspiration to cast a younger actor who has great chemistry with them. Martin and Short (and the showrunners/writers) were wowed by Gomez at her audition/reading.

While some feel the comedy isn't where it could be, I think the show makes up for it through the whodunnit mystery storyline with twists that keep you guessing and engaging characters who have secrets of their own. My wife and I really enjoy and look forward to it.

As to the ads--I survived them back in the days of broadcast tv before VCRs and streaming, and don't find the few (compared to network tv) a nuisance if they save me a few bucks.

Erich617 said...

I agree with your take on ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING, though I just watched the fifth episode, and I feel like the comedy really took off for the first time. The pace was also tighter. I noticed it was directed by Don Scardino, who did a lot of 30 ROCK. I didn't notice the directors on the other episodes, and I don't believe that he would have been responsible for the bits and dialogue in this particular episode, but I think he may have stepped up the comedy and kept the pace up.

As for commercials, I honestly couldn't remember whether my Hulu subscription has commercials until I watched this episode (it does). I don't mind too much. I am more bothered by the commercials at the beginning of Paramount+ shows because I did pay for the more expensive package on that platform just to avoid commercials.

I keep my Hulu subscription because the content seems to me to equate roughly to the cost. I have HBO Max and Netflix subscriptions through family plans, and I subscribe to services like Peacock and Paramount+ when I want to watch a particular show then cancel them. I believe I have an Apple TV subscription through my Apple+ account (which I got mainly for the iCloud storage space), but I still haven't gotten around to setting it up. Perhaps I will watch TED LASSO next.

Elf said...

I'd be angrier about the commercials if they didn't have the countdown timer. That way I know how much time I have to check my email, twitter, facebook, whatever.

As for the show itself, I accepted from the start that the comedy was going to have to be secondary to the story. The tone of the episodes has varied wildly, from too serious to not serious enough, but it is a murder mystery so I think they have to slow things down a ittle bit for the parts that advance the story.

And the mystery itself seems strong enough thus far, with all of the small reveals about Mabel's connections to the victim, that it could be a solid, low-key show without the comedy aspect. I'm in this to the end.

stephen catron said...

Watched the 1st episode. Old tropes and dull. Martin and Short's comedy is tired.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Whoever invented the commercial Countdown timer should get some kind of award for humanitarianism. Before that, the real frustration was the painful feeling of helplessless at the mercy of "Oh, no, not another one! What show was I watching again?" Now it should be added to movie theaters.

Anthony Adams said...

I was going to defend it as a mystery with comic elements, but even then the comedy stinks.

Anonymous said...

To be faor, Hulu is half the price of the other services mentioned.

slgc said...

After nine episodes - I love watching the performances. It's a fabulous cast, the actors are obviously enjoying themselves, and I'd watch half of these guys read the phone book.

Which would be more compelling than the alleged plot - WTF?