31 Pilots in 31 Days: Only Murders in the Building

When it was originally on: 2021-present

Original network: Hulu

Where you can stream it now: Hulu

Had I seen it before: Yes! I’ve seen all two seasons.

What IMDb says: Three strangers bonded by their love of true crime podcasts record their own to accompany their investigations of murders in their building on the Upper West Side of New York.

Why I picked it: When I first wrote up my intro post for this crop of pilots, I mentioned how Hulu seems like more of a legitimate threat to Netflix dominance compared to 2020, and Only Murders in the Building deserves some of the credit for that. This feels like the show where Hulu proved that they could offer more than dark prestige dramas that win awards (a common starting point for upstart streamers and cable channels). With Only Murders in the Building, Hulu started to feel like a service for everyone.

I’m also curious to see a comedy that still has this much groundwork to lay down for further plot points. Historically, a lot the great comedies haven’t been all that plot driven. Whether we’re talking family comedies, workplaces comedies, or hangout comedies, these shows have always worked because of great chemistry between the actors and relatively little emphasis on plot. Only Murders in the Building still fits pretty squarely into the comedy category, yet it’s also a serialized story that’s aiming for genuine suspense.

What I liked: The central idea here is brilliant. The recent true crime boom is not only a fun target of satire, but also makes it a lot more believable that three random people who have no qualifications to solve a murder mystery would convince themselves they can solve a murder mystery. The pilot walks this line quite nicely. It’s a ridiculous plot that teases lots of twists and turns to come, yet it’s still strangely grounded. I don’t find myself saying “this is dumb, who would ever do this?” even though on some level… it is dumb and no one in their right mind would make these choices. When you start thinking too hard about it, it seems like this is a show that shouldn’t work. Yet when you’re watching it… you can forget all that just get lost in the story.

The true crime podcast angle also gives us a great reason why three people would suddenly become friends with no other reason to be friends. Hell, it’s pretty well established that Charles actively dislikes Oliver, yet that goes away in an instant when they both realize they’re fans of the same true crime podcast. I also love how the pilot shows us how these three doesn’t really have other close friends or family to lean on. As crazy as the show seems to be on paper, it understands that our central trio still need to feel like real people with relatable problems. That’s part of why they’re able to achieve this magical grounded-but-also-not place.

Only Murders in the Building is also a great example of how if you start strong and you end strong, that’s half the battle. We start with a scene where. We know the three will become close ends by the end of the season, and we know another person will end up dead, with Mabel standing over the corpse. It’s a great way of showing that this is a show with real stakes in addition to the quirky fun of podcasting. We also end the pilot with a major reveal that would’ve had me letting Hulu autoplay Episode 2 with pleasure.

Also… shoutout to Only Murders in the Building for understanding the value of a well-executed theme sequence. They even work the theme into the rest of the episodes too.

What I didn’t like: Yeah… sorry. I can’t think of anything.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes!

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