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13 Lighthearted Murder Mysteries to Cure the Winter Blues

Why are they trending? Because you can shriek with fear — and laughter!

spinner image Martin Short and Steve Martin wait at a door window in Only Murders in the Building and Tiffany Haddish pulls on a line of police tape in The Afterparty
(Left to right) Martin Short and Steve Martin in "Only Murders in the Building"; Tiffany Haddish in "The Afterparty."
Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu; Aaron Epstein/Apple TV+

What’s so funny about murder? If you take a look at some of the most acclaimed streaming shows in the past few years, you’ll find that the hottest genre just might be murder-mystery comedy, a hybrid that combines the laughs of a traditional sitcom with the thrills of a detective drama or true-crime podcast.

Here, a watch list of 13 recent murder-mystery comedies, which run the gamut from goofy spoofs to pulse-quickening (if still laughter-inducing) thrillers.

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Only Murders in the Building (2021–)​

The premise: The most-watched comedy in Hulu history and a recent magnet for awards nominations, Only Murders in the Building is a loving ode to true-crime podcasts. When a man shows up dead in the ritzy Arconia apartment building and investigators rule it a suicide, three residents spring into action to prove he was murdered: Semiretired actor Charles Haden-Savage (Steve Martin, 78), Broadway director Oliver Putnam (Martin Short, 73) and a young woman named Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) who’s renovating her aunt’s unit team up to gather clues and start a podcast about the crime. Filling out the cast, other residents of the Arconia include Oscar nominee Amy Ryan, 55, as a professional bassoonist, Nathan Lane, 67, as a deli-chain owner and Sting, 72, as Sting. ​The show’s acclaimed third season focused on the creation of Oliver’s murder-mystery Broadway play, Death Rattle, and the creators gilded the ensemble’s lily by adding Meryl Streep, 74, and Paul Rudd, 54, to the cast.

The most killer part: You’ll love the animated opening credits sequence, which feels like a New Yorker cover come to life.

Watch it: Only Murders in the Building on Hulu

Don’t miss this: 10 Quick Questions for Mandy Patinkin, 71, star of Hulu’s lighthearted new murder mystery Death and Other Details, on AARP Members Only Access

Mapleworth Murders (2020)​

The premise: If you don’t know writer and comedian Paula Pell, 60, you should fix that ASAP! A writer on SNL for 18 years, Pell created such memorable characters as Debbie Downer and the Spartan cheerleaders. In 2020, she teamed up with 30 Rock’s John Lutz to create this off-the-wall parody of Murder, She Wrote for Quibi, the now-defunct platform dedicated to short-form content. Pell stars as the mystery writer Abigail Mapleworth, who investigates a slew of murders in her tiny hamlet of New Woodstream. Now available to stream for free on the Roku Channel, episodes are all less than 10 minutes long, but they’re filled to the brim with such guest stars as Tina Fey, 53; Wanda Sykes, 59; Maya Rudolph, 51; and Andy Samberg.

The most killer part: J.B. Smoove, 58, whom you may know as Larry’s housemate on Curb Your Enthusiasm, won an Emmy for his role as Chief Billy Bills. ​

Watch it: Mapleworth Murders on the Roku Channel​​​​​​​

The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window (2022)

The premise: If you like The Woman in the Window or The Girl on the Train, you’ll love this dark satire of psychological thrillers. Anna (Kristen Bell) sits home every day, drinking wine, popping pills and staring out the window as life passes her by. A handsome stranger (Tom Riley) moves in across the street, and Anna’s life is turned upside down when she witnesses a bloody murder. Or does she? Did we mention there’s a lot of day wine being drunk? In fact, the series tagline is: “When it rains, she pours.”

The most killer part: The show, which is co-executive-produced by Will Ferrell, 56, comes from the same production company as the Emmy-nominated Dead to Me.​

Watch it: The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window on Netflix

Murderville (2022)

The premise: Based on the BBC Three series Murder in Successville, this new show stars Arrested Development’s Will Arnett, 53, as Senior Detective Terry Seattle. Arnett has called the show “Law & Order without a script,” and the concept is a unique one: Each episode brings a new murder case, and a special celebrity guest star plays Terry’s partner. While the main cast gets a script, the guest has to fully improvise a way through the case and is ultimately responsible for naming the killer.

​The most killer part: The sure-to-be-hilarious guests for Season 1 included Sharon Stone, 65; Conan O’Brien, 60; Ken Jeong, 54; Kumail Nanjiani; Marshawn Lynch; and Schitt’s Creek Emmy winner Annie Murphy.​

Watch it: Murderville on Netflix

The Flight Attendant (2020–22)​

The premise: The Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco finally earned her first Emmy nomination for this darkly comedic HBO Max thriller, expected to return for its second season this spring. After a night of hard partying, flight attendant Cassie Bowden (Cuoco) wakes up in a Bangkok hotel room next to the bloody body of a man whose throat has been slit. When FBI agents question her about the killing, she tries to piece back together what happened on that fateful night, as she deals with surreal flashbacks and hallucinations. Rosie Perez, 59, costars as Cassie’s coworker, while T.R. Knight, 50 (George from Grey’s Anatomy), and Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna from Girls) play her brother and best friend.

The most killer part: After she starred on a very popular but very, very broad and laugh-track-backed sitcom for 12 seasons, you will be incredibly impressed by Cuoco’s dramatic range. We can’t wait to see her next role!​

Watch it: The Flight Attendant on Max

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The Afterparty (2022–23)​

The premise: On the night of their 15-year high school reunion, a group of friends gathers to celebrate at the home of pop singer Xavier (Dave Franco) — who ends up dead and dashed on the rocky beach below his mansion. Who, as they say, dunnit? The Apple TV+ show comes from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the brains behind The Lego Movie and The Last Man on Earth, and it once again shows off their outsize creativity and willingness to take big risks. Each episode is told from the perspective of a different character and in a totally different genre, including action film, musical and romantic comedy, with an ensemble that includes such sitcom standouts as Sam Richardson (Veep), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), Ilana Glazer (Broad City) and Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project). The show returned for a second season, which was set in the aftermath of a wedding, with a mostly new cast that included Ken Jeong, 54, and Elizabeth Perkins, 63.

The most killer part: The always reliable Tiffany Haddish steals scenes as Danner, the detective on the case.​

Watch it: The Afterparty on Apple TV+

​​​Dead to Me (2019–22)​

The premise: After her husband is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Laguna Beach real estate agent Jen Harding (Christina Applegate, 52) joins a grief support group, where she meets the kindhearted Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini). The two form a deep bond, but their friendship is tested as secrets begin to trickle out about Jen’s husband’s death. The plot will keep you guessing, but it’s the immediate chemistry between Applegate and Cardellini that really makes this show sing. Filming for the third and final season had to be temporarily paused when Applegate announced her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, but she completed the season, and critics were so wowed by her perseverance and strength that she earned three Emmy nominations in a row for the role.

The most killer part: TV legend Ed Asner appeared in one of his final roles as Judy’s friend at the retirement home where she works.

Watch it: Dead to Me on Netflix

Search Party (2016–22)​

The premise: The less you know going into this wickedly funny comedy, the better. In Season 1, a biting satire of millennial malaise, bored Brooklynite Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development) decides to investigate the disappearance of a random college acquaintance whom she barely knew. Over the course of five seasons, the show freewheels through genres, transforming with ease from true crime to psychological thriller to legal drama, and — spoiler alert — the body count does start to rise. The impressive rotating cast of guest stars included Louie Anderson, Susan Sarandon, 77; Jeff Goldblum, 71; and Kathy Griffin, 63.​

The most killer part: It’s truly one of the most unpredictable shows of the past decade. Every time you think it’s going to zig, it zags and then keeps on zagging.

Watch it: Search Party on Max

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Velma (2023–)

The premise: Remember the brainy Velma Dinkley from the original Scooby-Doo gang? She gets a modern update in this adult animated series developed by Mindy Kaling, who also voices the would-be detective. In this origin story of Mystery Inc. (which, gasp, doesn’t feature Scooby!), Velma is on the hunt for her mystery-writer mother, who has vanished into thin air, while also trying to solve the murders of local teenage girls. The rest of the voice cast includes Glenn Howerton as Fred, Sam Richardson as Shaggy and Constance Wu as Daphne, who are engaged in what’s described by the show’s creators as a “love quadrangle.”

The most killer part: You’ll get a kick out of trying to pick out the celebrity voice cameos, including the likes of Jane Lynch 63; Wanda Sykes, 59; and Weird Al Yankovic, 64.

Watch it: Velma on Max

Deadloch (2023–)

The premise: Head way down under for this Tasmania-set black comedy, which takes place in a fictional coastal town that gave the show its name. When a local man shows up dead on the beach, two very different detectives must team up to take on the case: the meticulous Senior Sergeant Dulcie Collins (Kate Box) and an unconventional new detective who recently moved to the island from up in Darwin, Eddie Redcliffe (Madeleine Sami). Expect plenty of odd-couple dynamics in this feminist-tinged comedy that was originally called Funny Broadchurch during production.

The most killer part: Fans of moody Scandinavian thrillers will dig the Tasmanian filming locations, which offer a chilly gray counterpoint to the series’ sardonic humor.

Watch it: Deadloch on Prime Video

Why Women Kill (2019–21)

The premise: In the first season of this darkly funny anthology series, the action is divided between three different time periods, as it follows three owners of the same Pasadena mansion in 1963 (Ginnifer Goodwin), 1984 (Lucy Liu, 55) and 2019 (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). They each experience infidelity, which kicks off a chain of events that ends in a death. The second season, meanwhile, stars Fargo Emmy nominee Allison Tolman as a 1940s Los Angeles housewife who will do anything to join the cool girls in the local garden club — including, well, you’ve read the show’s title…

The most killer part: The comedy comes from the twisty mind of Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry, 61, who knows a thing or two about revealing the dark underbelly beneath a seemingly polished suburban surface.

Watch it: Why Women Kill on Paramount+

Poker Face (2023–)

The premise: This loving homage to Columbo was created by Rian Johnson, 50, the director behind the must-see neo-noir flick Brick and the Knives Out films. Taking on the Peter Falk role is the ultra-charismatic Natasha Lyonne, who earned an Emmy nomination for her role as Charlie Cale, a casino worker who goes on the run from the head of security (Benjamin Bratt, 60) after a suspicious murder. Her almost magical ability to tell when people are lying comes in handy for the show’s murder-of-the-week format: Much like the crime classic, each episode is an inverted detective story. We, the audience, see who committed the murder at the start and then the plot revolves not around figuring out who did it but revealing how our heroine cracks the case.

The most killer part: Because the series has a procedural format, major A-listers can sign on for just one episode, meaning the guest cast is stacked with the likes of Nick Nolte, 82; Ellen Barkin, 69; and Judith Light, 74.

Watch it: Poker Face on Peacock

Bad Sisters (2022–)

The premise: A Peabody Award winner and recipient of four Emmy nominations, this black comedy is set in modern Dublin and follows the five Garvey sisters: Eva (series cocreator Sharon Horgan, 53), Grace (Anne-Marie Duff, 53), Ursula (Eva Birthistle), Bibi (Sarah Greene) and Becka (Eve Hewson, Bono’s daughter). When Grace’s abusive husband John Paul (Claes Bang, 56) shows up dead, an insurance agent begins investigating the quintet, whom he suspects of foul play. Flashbacks reveal the many, many ways the sisters plot their brother-in-law’s demise — though you’ll have to watch until the end to find out how he kicked the bucket.

The most killer part: Horgan is one of the most creative minds in modern television, and this show will make you want to watch her other shows, including PullingCatastropheDivorceMotherland and Shining Vale.

Watch it: Bad Sisters on Apple TV+

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