Figure 1 – Poker Face title

I’ve been doing a lot of movie reviews, mainly because most of the genre TV hasn’t been very interesting to me lately (Marvel’s TV offerings have included Wanda Vision, Loki, Peacemaker, and the Baby Groot episodes, so the cupboard hasn’t been entirely bare). But conversely, the MCU has been a trifle uninteresting too, with a lot of the big-ticket movies not delivering much more than a few big battles—which aren’t usually, of themselves, terribly involving. I enjoyed only parts of the MCU’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Thor: Love and Thunder, and absolutely disliked Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Eternals (the latter was boooring, IMO). DC didn’t fare much better with Wonder Woman 1984, Pattinson’s Batman, and Black Adam itself being a bunch of battles surrounding a tedious storyline. Some fairly good actors struggling their way through badly-written storylines, in my opinion (though I confess I liked Black Widow better the second time around (i.e., after watching it again; the interaction of the two “sisters” was well done.) So I’ve decided to review—as best I can without giving away too much—a semi-genre TV show instead.

I refer, of course, to Poker Face, helmed by Rian Johnson, and starring Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale, a woman who can tell—even she doesn’t know how she does it—when someone’s lying. Her immediate response, though she can suppress it, is to mutter “Bullshit!” It’s not exactly a superpower, is it? In fact, the best Charlie could do with it—until the other gamblers caught on to it (and gamblers talk, as she’s been warned more than once) is to use it in a high-stake poker game to tell when someone’s bluffing. But I’m ahead of myself.

Figure 2 – Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll

I previously noticed Lyonne in a series a few years back called Russian Doll, where her character kept reliving (and dying) the same day over and over (shades of Groundhog Day!)—a show created by Lyonne herself with Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland. We kind of dropped out after a while, and only watched a few episodes of Lyonne’s next series, Orange is the New Black (she was in 81 of the 91 episodes, stunt-doubled in one episode, and directed one episode). But for some reason I started watching this show, and was hooked.

Okay, back to Poker Face… this show airs on the streaming service Peacock, which I had previously never heard of. I think maybe one of my Facebook friends pointed me to the show. Peacock has a weird structure: it’s a subsidiary of Comcast, and it streams in the U.S., UK and Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy only at this time. And in the U.S., your streaming box must be physically located in the U.S. (I think they have a limited-time offer of $29.95 for a year right now for new subscribers; at least I saw that on the interwebz.) But anyway, I saw the first episode online and thought this show—both the writing and the acting—supplies something I’ve been missing in my TV watching. (Almost the same excitement as when my co-op’s satellite service got Jeopardy back after about three years missing it!)

I can’t say too much about it because of spoilers, but I can tell you that although they play it “straight,” it’s a fully tongue-in-cheek show; Natasha does a credible impression (I fully expect her to break out with “One more thing, sir” at any moment) of Columbo’s Peter Falk. No, she doesn’t wear that raincoat, have a wandering eye, or even wave a cigar around, but you’ll know when you see her. Because this series is another “amateur detective” show—not because we actually need another one, but because a) her power, talent, whatever you want to call it, lends itself to finding out the truth; b) there’s a murder (so far, five eps in—maybe there’ll be two later) every episode; and c) she’s running for her life from Benjamin Bratt’s character, Cliff LeGrand, who works as security chief for a casino owner (Ron Perlman) whom we’ve only heard on the phone up to now, and who’s determined to kill her. Why he wants to kill her you’ll find out in the first episode.

Every episode has at least one well-known guest star (the first one was Adrien Brody), and a couple less-well-known, usually. Since I’m not as big a TV-watcher as I am a movie watcher, I probably miss half the guest stars, but I did see Chloë Sevigny playing a faded rock star. But for me, the real star is not the plot nor its solution (nor the guests), but Charlie herself; that is, Natasha Lyonne. What a talent! With that husky/whiskey voice, and blonde hair (no longer dyed red as in Russian Doll) in Stevie Nicks flyaway curls, she keeps me mesmerized. And there is so much humour in the episodes. (Now if she can only get over the tendency to confront the killer(s) alone and explain exactly how they did their crimes, she just might live to the end of the season! So far she’s had several very narrow escapes.)

As of this week, it’s up to five episodes, and there will be ten this season—I hope it gets renewed for at least one more season. If you can get it, I think you’ll find it rewarding.

Anything to say? Any comments on this column? You can comment here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

Source: Auto Draft

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