I find Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” which returns in excellent form on Tuesday, to be a good time. It’s just a lot of clowning around by a group of accomplished comic actors, all buoyed by some affectionate satire of entertainers, New Yorkers, true-crime podcasters, and neighborly relationships. After it premiered in 2021, a few readers told me they found it silly, and I couldn’t disagree. It is silly, but silliness in the hands of these skilled performers and writers is a treat. Long live silliness.
The third season brings in two new elements that perk up the formula a bit. First off, the show has cast a pair of high-profile guest stars, both playing off their public images. Paul Rudd, as we saw in the season two finale, is on hand in a few episodes as a nasty piece of work named Ben Glenroy, and his murder is the mystery of the season. He’s a vain, rude actor, the polar opposite of Rudd — or at least of his nice-guy reputation. And Meryl Streep plays Loretta Durkin, a longtime struggling theater actress who, very much unlike Streep, has never gotten her big break or any recognition.
The other tweak is the milieu, which is Broadway. Glenroy is the star of the Broadway play directed by Oliver (Martin Short), a play that the down-on-his luck Oliver is hoping will be his grand comeback after past disasters. Once Ben is murdered on opening night, the cast and crew — not least of all Streep’s Loretta, who despised Ben — become suspects. Two of the funniest suspects — played by Linda Emond and Wesley Taylor — are mother-son producers whose relationship is amusingly cringey. Also in the mix: Jesse Williams as the documentarian who has been making a movie about Ben. His name? In one of the show’s off-center running jokes, it is Tobert, Robert with a T.
There are a few cameos I won’t spoil here, all of them pleasing. Also, our investigating team of Oliver, Charles (Steve Martin), and Mabel (Selena Gomez) get a little split up, which only reinforces their appeal as an oddball trio. Does the third season, of which I’ve seen eight episodes, go on too long, like so many streaming shows these days? Probably so. But there’s such warmth afoot, in our cross-generational Mod Squad and in the fun that all the cast members seem to be having. Along with silliness, the show has heart.