Peacock’s “poker face” livens up the detective show

Rian Johnson continues his detective work poker facea new Peacock series that gives the television procedure the necessary jolt.

Natasha Lyonne takes off a thread Russian doll also, albeit without the time travel. She plays Charlie Cale, a casino cocktail waitress who also happens to have a knack for knowing when people are lying, usually preceded by the word “bullshit.” The pilot, which takes more than an hour, prepares the inciting action: Charlie begins to investigate the murder of her friend and is eventually sent on the run.

poker face

Three and a half stars

Release date:
January 26, 2022
Ryan Johnson
Rian Johnson tries his hand at detective show with Natasha Lyonne channeling Columbo.

poker face is a howcatchem, in the tradition of columbo (also streaming on Peacock), which is admittedly an influence here. After the pilot, each episode (critics got a six out of ten) begins with a new set of characters and then a murder before going back in time to show how Charlie finally solved it. There’s no real backstory to how Charlie became a human lie detector, but we don’t need one. Watching her work is entertaining enough, although there were a few episodes where I checked how much time was left and wondered when she would be out.

Part of Columbo’s charm came from his tenacity – while also posing as a bumbling detective to gain the killer’s trust. Charlie is more of a casualty when she turns up in a new location (New Mexico, Texas) looking for temp work, and a random murder happens while she’s in town. But Lyonne, fortunately, doesn’t make Charlie an empty shell of a person or “gritty”; She’s a gregarious person and often befriends the killers (or victims) before the murder happens, which must be a bit of a mindfuck. (Maybe this will be explored in later episodes?)

poker face must also come up with inventive ways of murdering people. At the end of an uneven episode 3 where Lil Rel Howery plays a Texas restaurant owner scheme, Charlie essentially becomes a BBQ detective who I’m not sure has been shown before. Her saying “Paprika?” at the end, Columbo’s “Just one more thing…” sounds.

While this is Johnson’s first TV show, much like his crime films knife out and glass onion, poker face draws on star casting: Adrian Brody, Colton Ryan, Hong Chau, Chloë Sevigny, John Darnielle, Judith Light and Tim Meadows all appear in the first six episodes, and it’s exciting to see what combination of famous people will interact.

There is also a connection to glass onion Universe, and in particular its detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who could pull off something bigger: Johnson told varietyy that in Lyonne’s brief Zoom appearance in the film: “She plays herself, but she wears hair and makeup as Charlie in her trailer … on the set of poker face.”

The case-of-the-week format means there are no cliffhangers and no specific number of episodes to watch before settling in. (Though Peacock is releasing the first four episodes this week.) You can hop on and off, and it feels liberating.


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*Initial publication: January 26, 2023 at 7:00 am CST

Audra Schroeder

Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, focusing on streaming, comedy and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch and the Village Voice. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Audra Schroeder Peacock’s “poker face” livens up the detective show

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