Only Murders in the Building: Meryl Streep steals the show, riffing off Steve Martin and Martin Short

Television: Third time out, this giddy whodunit has not lost its charm

Disney’s streaming service has been having a rocky time, with the quality of its Marvel shows declining starkly and its Star Wars spin-offs a few Jedi mind tricks short of a fully operational lightsaber. The embattled streamer has, however, scored a huge hit with its cosy crime caper Only Murders in the Building, which has returned for a third run.

The playful whodunit stars Martin Short and Steve Martin as a duo of old showbiz luvvies adrift in a world disinclined to be blinded by their genius. They join forces with Selena Gomez’s Mabel, a cynical millennial drifting through her late 20s. Together they become an unlikely triple threat of amateur sleuths with a sideline in podcasting.

The series also celebrates the cliche of Manhattan as a playground for smarty-pants urbanites. It’s the milieu of Annie Hall, Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums and the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town section. In Only Murders, the leafy vibes are centred on the Arconia, an Upper West Side complex – actual name the Belnord – where an apartment will set you back $13 million (even more than a two-bed in Ranelagh).

Season three amps up the star power with Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep. Rudd chews the scenery with gusto as a movie star appearing in his first Broadway play. Short’s Oliver Putman directs that production. As viewers of series two will know, opening night goes badly when one of the lead actors is murdered. But who did it and why? And will it provide an excuse for Mabel, Oliver and Charles (Martin) to get their true-crime podcast up and running again?


Streep is fantastic as a struggling actor whose big opportunity has arrived late in her career when Putnam casts her in the doomed production. Her performance is a world away from her other big TV appearance, in season two of Big Little Lies. Streep’s stardom overwhelmed that glossy thriller, even alongside Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. She’s a perfect fit on Only Murders, though.

You can tell she’s having great fun riffing off Short and Martin, for whom the show marks a stunning late-career renaissance. When they toured Dublin on the eve of the pandemic, there was a sense they were feasting on old glories. That was before Only Murders in the Building put them back in the spotlight.

As ever, the show is at its best when the trio of Oliver, Charles and Mabel throw sparks off each other. They have an effortless chemistry and their screwball interactions are a pleasure in themselves. Disney+ subscribers fed up with subpar superhero romps will be delighted that, third time out, this giddy whodunit has not lost its charm.