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Hulu’s Only Murders In The Building gleefully sends up true-crime obsessives

Sly, boisterous, and a bit melancholy, Hulu’s Only Murders In The Building would be a great pick-me-up even if we weren’t in the doldrums of late summer. The dramedy, from creators Steve Martin, John Hoffman, and Dan Fogelman, glides out of the gate, introducing characters and conflict with great elan and efficiency. There are no opening night jitters for Martin and his fellow leads Selena Gomez and Martin Short; a three-shot in an elevator establishes them as a cohesive trio even before they start investigating a crime (or what they believe to be a crime) in the massive pre-war building they all live in on the Upper West Side.

Like so many people, Charles Haden Savage (Martin), Oliver Putnam (Short), and Mabel Mora (Gomez) are obsessed with true-crime podcasts. Like so many New Yorkers, they’re simultaneously oblivious to and and all too aware of each other’s existence at the Arconia, a building so massive, it takes up an entire city block. The Arconia (which real-life locals will recognize as the Belnord residences) is a neighborhood unto itself, with its own populace and gossip—both of which are shaken up in the premiere episode. But first, Jamie Babbitt (who directed the first two episodes) takes us on a tour of some of the co-op’s well-appointed apartments, where Curt Beech’s set designs stoke real-estate fantasies as effectively as Zillow.

After being evacuated from their building, Mabel, Oliver, and Charles have dinner, where they bond over their love of a Serial-esque podcast with its own Sarah Koenig-like host (played by Tina Fey). The three neighbors share their theories about the podcast, All Is Not OK In Oklahoma. But when they finish their meal, they fully expect to go back to vaguely acknowledging each other’s presence. Only, a seismic shift occurred while they were having dinner—one of their neighbors, a standoffish young man named Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), was found dead, apparently by suicide.

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