In Hulu's Only Murders in the Building, two veteran comedians bring to the table the clearly defined personae that they've firmly entrenched in the public mind: Steve Martin often plays men who are self-impressed, even pompous, and a bit uptight, while Martin Short plays smarmy show-business phonies turned up to 11.
At first, the actors slot easily, even predictably, into their respective roles: Martin is Charles, a washed-up actor living off the royalties from his old cop show, and Short is Oliver, a flailing theater director who hasn't had a hit in decades.
Both men are infatuated with a true-crime podcast, and when a mysterious death occurs in their Upper West Side apartment building, they decide to start a true-crime podcast of their own.
Given that premise, you'd be forgiven for expecting something broader and more manic — and maybe, when it comes to the subject of podcasting, more than a little out-of-touch — than the series ends up delivering. Certainly the opening minutes of the first episode seem to meet those expectations — there's Martin walking down an UWS street in a porkpie hat while we hear his voice reading a gravid and overwritten bit of narration. There's Short, in a flashy purple jacket, narrating his own over-the-top thoughts on life in New York City.