A Star-Studded, Highly-Addictive Case-of-the-Week Series – Rolling Stone

Once upon a time At the time, most television was like that poker faceNewly created by Peacock Drama Glass onionsRian Johnson and star Russian dollsThis is a pure episode of Natasha Lyonne, the case of the week. Each episode sets up its own unique story, which leads to the finale of Leon’s Charlie Kill at the end of the hour. There are some very loose running threads, but you could in theory watch every episode but in any order first and enjoy each one just the same. It’s a show that relies heavily on its star appeal and the ability of Johnson and the other writers and directors to make each story so interesting that you’ll keep coming back for more without a hint of truth. to be continued.

For decades, that’s how television worked. Then came the next wire, breaking bad, game of thronesAnd so on, and suddenly the case of the week is gone – simple stuff from a time before we knew TV could be good. Serialization was the new king, and if each episode didn’t contribute to some sort of larger story, what even was?

In many ways, television has benefited greatly from this change. This century’s best shows have been able to aim high, dig deep, and take incredible advantage of the sheer time it takes to tell a story about a set of characters over the years. But otherwise, we really missed something. Serialization has changed the formula as it used to be purely storytelling. Many showrunners – whether they’re screenwriters trying to expand the plot of a movie they can’t sell, or just someone who learned all the wrong things from watching it the sopranosor thought it would be easier to just copy breaking badPlot structure – mistakenly assuming that an ongoing story is fundamentally interesting because it runs for an entire season or an entire series. Complexity is treated as a reward for its own sake, not because it adds any value to the story being told. So we get these long, shapeless pieces – “It’s a 10-hour movie!” – Forget how to have fun because all they care about is moving forward.

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Then thank God for Johnson, Lyon, and everyone else involved in the creation poker face. It incorporates all the best elements of the past, but in a way that makes the show feel completely modern – in the same way that Knife out and Glass onions Inspired by Agatha Christie mysteries without feeling like dusty period pieces.

Charlie, we learn, was once an unbeatable poker player thanks to an unusual, essentially supernatural ability: he can always tell when someone is lying. Eventually, he ran away from the wrong crowd, and now works as a cocktail waitress at a Nevada casino, just trying to stay out of trouble. But as is the case with these types of shows, the problem keeps finding her, always in the form of a murder that only she can solve, because she knows that the killer is full of it.

The format is a classic combination Colombo Unravel the mystery and the approach Johnson has taken with Benoit Blanc’s films. Each episode opens with 10-15 minutes without Charlie, as we meet the killers and their victims and see how and why the murders were committed. Then the stories are repeated to show how Charlie already knows these characters, before we finally get to what happened, and also to see the bad guys get justice – even though Charlie isn’t a cop and In fact, he must remain free of the law because the events of the first episode make him a fugitive who must travel from city to city anonymously. (The only ongoing element is that the casino enforcer, played by Benjamin Bratt, has been following her around the country since the pilot episodes, but even that is relatively minor in the critically acclaimed episodes. .)

Lil Reel Howry as Taffy in ‘Poker Face’.


The lineup and variety of guest stars varies widely from episode to episode. In one, he has a job at a Texas barbecue run by Lil’ Reel Horry. On the other hand, she’s a way for a one-hit-wonder heavy metal band where Chloé Sevigny is the returning frontwoman.

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Although Peter Falk’s Lt. Columbo in Lyons was there a little earlier Russian dolls activity, Charlie is a very different type of character: friendly and curious about the people and world around him. It’s an utterly magnetic and winning performance, where she’s just as good on her own — say, checking different types of wood to spot Lil’ Rail’s lie — as she is interacting with great guest stars like Hong Chao ( As an antidote.the social long-distance truck driver) or Alan Barkin (as an eighties TV star now performing in dinner theater).

And like Blanc’s films, this is a show that uses every bit of meat. No matter how expendable a scene may seem—say, Charlie has an interesting encounter with a stranger in the garbage—it will eventually have some kind of significance to the plot. The whole thing is very clever – including the many ways it manages to show the limits of human lie detectors – and light on its feet.

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He said, because it seems so poker face Made so rare – or at least, those like it that are also well executed – there is a danger of wildly over-appreciating it. As with any fictional drama, some episodes are stronger than others, especially in the crazy-free opening sequence. Part 5, for example, presents Judith Light and S. Eptha Merkerson as former revolutionaries of the seventies who are now two very tough, meaningful broads in their retirement community. The combination of its premise and its superbly seasoned cast is so strong, I almost forgot I was waiting for Charlie. But the second episode, involving three people who work the night shift at the shops next to the truck stop, really only begins when a familiar basket of strawberry blonde hair is spotted. And even when he does show up, the flashback sections sometimes leave you impatient to get to the part where Charlie starts to poke holes in the killer’s story. ((Colombo Episodes ran from 70 to 100 minutes, and thus had plenty of time for Falk and the guest stars to interact; After the first 67-minute episode, which should establish Charlie’s background and premise, all the others are an hour or less, sometimes considerably less.)

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But gosh, what a relief and joy it is to watch a TV show that really wants to be a TV show, and that knows how to do it at this high level. Johnson and Leon have said they want to build poker face As long as they can. Here’s hoping they get a chance. This is an interesting one.

The first four parts poker face Begin airing on Peacock on January 26, with additional episodes airing weekly. I have watched the first six of the 10 episodes.


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