Granger on Film: 'Only Murders in the Building' is an underwhelming mystery

Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez in a still from "Only Murders in the Building."

Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez in a still from "Only Murders in the Building."

Craig Blankenhorn / Hulu

Undoubtedly, best buddies Steve Martin and Martin Short had more fun making this comedy murder-mystery than audiences who endure all 10 episodes to discover whodunit.

Co-created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, the farcical parody of Manhattan eccentricity works best when it concentrates on the various characters, rather than allowing participants to indulge in broad slapstick.

Charles Hayden-Savage (Martin), Oliver Putnam (Short) and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) occupy apartments in the Arconia, a fictitious co-op on the Upper West Side. They politely nod to one another in the elevator but they’ve never made any attempt to know one another.

Dour Charles is a former actor, often recognized from his days playing a detective on TV’s “Brazzos.” Narcissistic Oliver is a tap-dancing theater director whose musical “Splash” was a dismal failure. And savvy, sarcastic Mabel is an illustrator with a troubled past.

Yet when a fire-alarm forces them to evacuate and interact, these three lonely strangers suddenly discover that they share an obsession with the popular true-crime podcast. “All is Not OK in Oklahoma,” hosted by Cinda Canning (Tina Fey).

When they’re permitted to re-enter the Anconia, they discover police responding to the suicide of another resident, young businessman Tim Kono (Julian Cihi). But was it really suicide, or was poor Tim murdered? Perhaps they can find the culprit, documenting their pursuit on a podcast of their own.

To that end, they start interviewing other neighbors, like deli czar Teddy Dimas (Nathan Lane), one of Oliver’s former Broadway investors; Jan (Amy Ryan), a bassoonist; Sting (as himself), occupying the penthouse; and Oscar (Aaron Dominguez), son of the Arconia’s superintendent (Vanessa Aspillaga).

They discover, among other tidbits, that Tim suffered from asthma, which kept them all from using their fireplaces, plus there’s that beetle-size emerald and a taxidermy cat.

FYI: Exteriors for the Arconia were filmed at the Belnord at 225 W. 86th Street in Manhattan.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Only Murders in the Building” is an underwhelming, sleuthing 6, streaming on Hulu.

Susan Granger has been an on-air television and radio commentator and entertainment critic for more than 25 years. Raised in Hollywood, Granger appeared as a child actress in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Lassie. She currently resides in Westport.