Natasha Lyonne, Rian Johnson make a perfect team for Peacock’s Poker Face | TV/streaming

Just as important as finding the lead on a show like “Poker Face” is finding guest stars who can go toe-to-toe with the main character. Whether it’s in the case of a would-be victim, the falsely accused, or the killer, half the fun of this series is discovering who’s involved in each episode. Johnson and Lyonne work with a large list of stars including Ron Perlman, Stephanie HsuClea DuVall, Lil Rel Howery, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and many others. Every episode, out of the six shown for review, had at least one standout performance — “The Night Shift,” for example, features an appearance by an actress Hong Chau, and she makes a unique impression in her limited screen time as a truck driver who is framed for the murder of a local. In another episode, “Time of the Monkey”, Judith Light and S. Epatha Merkerson are older hippies with strong convictions. Just watching them play off each other and interact with Charlie is a joy.

Perhaps not a huge surprise to audiences familiar with Johnson’s “Knives Out” films, “Poker Face” has plenty of funny moments. Lyonne is a talented comedian so it’s not a stretch for her and the guest stars are just as prepared. In “The Stall”, a BBQ Pit Master suddenly decides to go vegan because he is an animal killer and needs a career change. What ultimately led to that career change was easily one of the funniest gags on the show. There are plenty of other great moments throughout the series that are really strong, and while shows like “Columbo” got their laughs, “Poker Face” has a strong comedic focus that works without feeling forced.

“Poker Face” is derived from a winning formula, but there are a few hiccups that come with the mystery-of-the-week format. Since each episode features new characters and stories, it’s inevitable that some episodes are going to work better than others. One of the weaker episodes, “Rest in Metal”, focuses on a band that has already been and their desperate need for another hit single. While not every crime on the show needs to be contrived, this is one that was too simple and it didn’t work that well. In this era of streaming TV, “Poker Face” is almost an anti-binge show, as it works better to watch a mystery once a week instead of all episodes at once. That may make returning to the adventures of Charlie Cal less enticing than other shows.

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