Tuesday, August 31, 2021

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - A Podcast Obsession Bleeds Into Real Life for Charles, Oliver and Mabel in 'True Crime'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 1.01 "True Crime"

Upper West Side neighbors Charles, Oliver and Mabel bond over a shared love of true crime. When a fellow resident dies in their building, the trio determine to solve the mystery and record an accompanying podcast.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Hulu's Only Murders in the Building.

"True Crime" was written by Steve Martin & John Hoffman and directed by Jamie Babbit

Charles, Oliver and Mabel are all fans of All is Not Okay in Oklahoma. However, they are all willing and able to critique it. They don't allow their obsession over the mystery to get in the way of removing themselves from the proceedings to talk about the way the storytellers have shaped this project. So often in pop culture, the public is conditioned into either loving something completely or ripping it to pieces. Nuance is so difficult to portray. And yet, that's the reality of life. Nothing exists that should be above criticism. Those constructive comments can actually make things better because they provide a sense of objectivity to the proceedings. Art yearns to make a statement. It doesn't always hit everyone the same way. Of course, the detective is annoyed that listeners of true crime podcasts think they can do her job. She is the one with access to all of the early information. All signs point to suicide for the murder that takes place in Charles, Oliver and Mabel's apartment building. It's easy for people to contort their minds into believing something more must have happened. The simple answer isn't satisfying. Life has to be a mystery because that's the only way the trivial details add up to anything. Charles, Oliver and Mabel aren't satisfied with their lives. They each have a way of putting on a good face for people in public. They are all lonely and isolated though. This apartment complex affords them that opportunity. They get to live surrounded by people. And yet, they don't have to get close with anyone. They can walk forward projecting that they are happy and successful. No one will question it unless they get closer. The central trio do start to break down those barriers with each other. They quickly form a bond. They are forged together because of this collective obsession over a podcast. They too believe that they are solving a mystery. Charles has a diagram depicting all of the crucial details. They want to know as much information as possible. But they are also being guided along this path. It's not happening in real time for them. It's not their mystery to solve. It's something meant to bring excitement and entertainment. It's a way to address the brutal nature of humanity while feeling comforted by being far removed from the events. It can only distract from their real lives for so long though. Charles is in a rut where he does the same thing each day. It never amounts to anything. Meanwhile, Oliver is reduced to begging his son for money. Part of this comes from their inability to accept what's real in their lives. They would rather be entertained by fanciful stories than embrace the truth. They quickly welcome Mabel along for this journey. She has the same investigative impulses as they do. She is sucked in just as quickly with the murder in the building. Her connection is much different though. Her life story contrasts with theirs. At first, it highlights the generational appeal of these true crime podcasts. Anyone can become obsessed. But this is nothing new for Mabel. She actually has a past with the victim. Now, that secret is only shared with the audience in the very last moment of this premiere. It perhaps informs Mabel's entire presence in this apartment building. Her life may be completely defined by this core mystery. That agency stands opposed to the lives Charles and Oliver have lived. It's still a version of denial in its own way. Plus, it's all in service of surprising the audience with shocking twists at the very end to make us come back for more. The show has that fundamental awareness of what drives forward this obsession and the break from reality for a little bit. It wants to highlight the perils of that pursuit as well. That's how it may play out for these characters. Their lives are small and confined to this building. They easily form a sense of camaraderie. They each come to the same realizations at the same time. That brings an immediate focus onto the elevator. It's where they all collect and have their first run-in with Tim. That starts off the clues that they chase down throughout this building. The mystery is just getting started - with the understanding that the police don't see anything more at play here. The clues are briefly teased. More is going on. Only time will tell just how rewarding this mystery will be especially as Charles, Oliver and Mabel chase it for a jolt of excitement to their individual lives.