A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Only Murders in the Building is a comic murder mystery about a death that unites neighbors at a luxury New York City co-operative apartment building. Despite the focus on crime and murder (the main trio of characters are obsessed with a true crime podcast and decide to start their own), the show has a lighthearted tone, though there are some moments of violence, like when we see a dead body with brain exposed, or another body wrapped in a bloody sheet. Otherwise, characters are mostly giddy about looking for clues and answers; characters connect with each other and are able to find friendship and support that's healing for the problems in their lives. Two of the main actors in this show are men in their 70s, the other is a woman in her 20s. They find they have more in common than they first suspected, although the young woman frequently needles the men for being old and unhip. Language includes "motherf-----g," "f--k," and "goddamn" as well as vulgar words for body parts like "nuts." The characters' ritzy building is shown in detail, including its elaborate huge apartments and grand lobby with a doorman. Sexual content is light, but we do see one character showering and get a quick glimpse of the side of her breast. Characters drink together in a bar, but no one gets drunk.
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What's the story?
Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short), and Mabel (Selena Gomez) are neighbors who sometimes see each other in the elevators in ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING's luxury apartment building, The Arconia. But when a fellow resident winds up dead and the trio learn that they share an obsession with true crime podcasts, they hatch an inspired idea: What if they produce their own podcast about the death (murder?) of their former neighbor? What could possibly go wrong?
Is it any good?
It's precious and artsy, a hothouse flower of a dramedy set amongst the rich and idle, but this series is also cinematically shot and expertly acted, with an intriguing setting and unusual characters. Anchoring the action of Only Murders in the Building in an upper-crust NYC co-op was an inspired choice. With its tenant boards, draconian rules, and insular atmosphere, Only Murders' fictional Arconia is a world within the larger world of New York City (the series was filmed in the real-life co-op building The Belnord), and it's great fun watching Mabel, Charles, and Oliver tiptoeing around looking for clues to the murder mystery that's presented itself on their home base.
Speaking of the trio of main actors, they work quite well; Martin and Short are old hands at putting across lines, of course, but Gomez is a pleasantly tart counterpoint to the sometimes self-indulgent blather the other two are prone to. "We have our first clue!" exults Martin's Charles on a fact-finding foray with Mabel, "And we stole it from a neighbor to get it!" "Yeah, I know. I was there," responds Mabel, deadpan. Short's Oliver is complicated and delightful, too. Marooned in his overdone apartment (spending time in these ritzy abodes is a key pleasure of this show), cheerfully pushing his dog around in a stroller and gassing about his directorial projects of the past and future, he's hilarious and heartbreaking by turns. The many cameos from NYC faves like Tina Fey and Fran Lebowitz are a hoot too. Only Murders is a weird experiment that works.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this kind of crime show is more appealing than procedurals that are more serious and grim. If so, why? Do crimes like murder seem less upsetting in a comedy context? What's the impact of seeing violence on television? How does this series soften the impact of its central violence?
Families can also discuss why so many TV shows revolve around "odd couple" pairings. Is it just a way to generate conflict? Do you think unlikely character pairings are better for drama shows or for comedies? How would this show change if it were all actors in their 20s like Gomez, or all actors in their 70s like Martin and Short?
What's the purpose of Oliver, Charles, and Mabel's working on a project together? In real life, does a common goal bring people together? What other common goals unite characters on other shows you enjoy? Would these three characters have gotten to know each other without their common goal?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love mysteries
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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