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‘Poker Face’ is the millennial ‘Columbo’ riff I’ve been waiting for

‘Poker Face’ is the millennial ‘Columbo’ riff I’ve been waiting for

Poker Face isn’t the sort of show that can be spoiled, but have a warning anyway.

I always think there’s been a gulf between production-line TV and its prestige brethren, but that the internet helped demarcate its edges. NCIS was the most-watched drama series in the US from 2009 onwards, but you don’t see The Ringer giving an essay-length breakdown to every episode. These days, prestige drama in the peak-TV mold is pored over and chewed around by the internet sausage machine. Everything else is deemed disposable, despite the obvious and sustained success of the stuff most people are actually watching on broadcast networks. There’s a lot of snobbery there, but also I suspect the The Rookie audience isn’t too fussed about reading a 2,000-word breakdown by an underemployed Yale grad about last night’s Nathan Fillion fights crime action.

Poker Face, then, is an attempt by what I’ll only-slightly-sarcastically call “prestige TV people” into making production-line TV. Like when a stuffy gourmet chef wants to burnish their “down with the kids” credentials by making the sort of dirty burger you can only appreciate at 3am. Interesting then that, despite the fact its co-creator and star are both poster children for Netflix’s revolution, that the show was set up at Peacock. Created by Rian Johnson, fresh from the success of Glass Onion: A Benoit Blanc Mystery, and Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne, Poker Face is an unashamed homage to a lost age of TV. Or, you know, lost if you’re not paying attention to whatever CBS is showing on Thursday and Sunday nights.

Lyonne stars as Charlie Cale, a woman with a troubled past who has developed the miraculous ability to tell when someone is lying. After attempting to use her talent to get rich quickly on a lazy poker tour across the US, she’s caught by a Reno casino magnate. He offers her a hostess job, in exchange for not murdering her to death, making her promise not to use her talent again. When he retires, and his grabby son takes over, he opts to use her talent rather than keep it hidden, embroiling both of them in a murder mystery. Which eventually leads her taking a road trip in her Plymouth Barracuda, solving murders wherever she goes.

And, certainly, the show has leant into the idea that Poker Face is probably the closest thing we’re going to get to a millennial Columbo remake. Certainly, the creative team haven’t been shy…

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