Natasha Lyonne and Rian Johnson Hint the TV Origins of ‘Poker Face’
To make new tv, it helps for those who’ve watched plenty of previous tv. That’s a lesson evident in “Poker Face,” the crime-thriller sequence created by Rian Johnson and starring Natasha Lyonnewhich makes its debut Jan. 26 on Peacock.
Lyonne, the sharp-witted star of “Orange Is the New Black” and “Russian Doll,” is forged in “Poker Face” as Charlie Cale, a lady with a preternatural capacity to inform when individuals are mendacity. Embarking on a cross-country journey — how and why Charlie finds herself on the run are established within the present’s first installment — she grapples with new mysteries and new celeb visitor stars (together with Benjamin Bratt, Ellen Barkin, Nick Nolte and Chloë Sevigny) in every of the sequence’s 10 episodes.
Whereas “Poker Face” constructs an overarching narrative, its self-contained installments are a deliberate throwback to a method of TV storytelling that Johnson (the author and director of “Knives Out” and “Glass Onion”) grew up with within the Seventies and ’80s.
“That’s after I had management of the tv,” Johnson stated. “And it was sometimes hourlong, star-driven, case-of-the-week exhibits.” They weren’t solely detective applications like “Columbo” and “Homicide, She Wrote,” he stated, but additionally journey sequence like “Quantum Leap,” “The A-Workforce,” “Freeway to Heaven” and “The Unimaginable Hulk,” which have been notable for “the anchoring presence of a charismatic lead and a unique set of visitor stars and, in lots of instances, a very completely different location, each single week.” These ever-changing parts saved issues recent and stunning, he stated.
Lyonne, who cultivated an appreciation for TV later in life, stated she had been drawn to “Poker Face” for its mix of one-off and persevering with narratives, in addition to the chance to work with a creator like Johnson.
“Do I really like David Milch? Sure. Do I really like Rod Serling? Sure,” Lyonne stated, including that she additionally loved “the mischief of being as much as one thing with Rian.”
“I don’t really feel like I’ve any professional or con bias on serialized or not-serialized tv,” she stated. “The most effective of those exhibits all transcend these fashions in their very own authentic methods. However I discover it very soothing to know that we’re linking as much as precedents that I take pleasure in.”
In separate interviews, Johnson and Lyonne shared just a few of their favourite episodes of those previous exhibits — some that have been direct influences on “Poker Face,” some that have been personally significant to them and a few that they merely can’t get out of their heads. Listed here are edited excerpts from these conversations.
‘Columbo,’ Season 3, Episode 2: ‘Any Previous Port in a Storm’
The rumpled detective (Peter Falk) cracks a homicide case concocted by a snooty however finally cooperative wine skilled (Donald Pleasence).
I may have pulled any variety of “Columbo” episodes out of a hat. The one with Lindsay Crouse as a intercourse therapist is terrific, and Columbo is adorably embarrassed at any time when she talks about intercourse.
However I got here again to “Any Previous Port in a Storm.” It’s a diabolically clever entrapment that Columbo pulls off, and it’s very satisfying. It will get to the center of what I feel the precise enchantment of “Columbo” is, which is that it’s stealthily a hangout present with Peter Falk. The mysteries are at all times actually well-constructed, and the cat-and-mouse on this one was very enjoyable. However it actually is all about watching Falk be Falk each single week. You’re tuning in to see Columbo and the visitor star work together with one another and hang around.
What drives this episode is Donald Pleasence and his towering efficiency because the murderous wine aficionado. There’s a scene the place Pleasence goes ballistic on a waiter when he’s served a foul port. The phrase he unleashes — “This liquid filth!” — is superb. However greater than that, even whereas Columbo is monitoring him down and busting him, Pleasence develops a heat relationship with him, weirdly, and a respect. It’s type of lovely.
‘Homicide, She Wrote,’ Season 1, Episode 20: ‘Homicide Takes the Bus’
On a darkish and stormy night time, a stalled bus experience strands the crime-solving thriller creator Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) at a diner with her fellow passengers — any of whom could possibly be a killer.
I’ve been speaking in interviews for the previous few months in regards to the influences on “Knives Out” and “Glass Onion.” I had Agatha Christie, the nice works from the Golden Age of detective fiction and flicks like “The Final of Sheila.” However actually every little thing was due to Angela Lansbury.
For lots of us rising up, “Homicide, She Wrote” was on daily, and the sheer variety of hours consumed is tough to prime. This episode is type of Hitchcock-like, within the custom of “The Woman Vanishes,” the place a bunch of suspects are all displaced collectively. This one simply occurs to visitor star Linda Blair and Rue McClanahan.
I miss the contract that the viewers had with the present of, “I’m not going to search out this bizarre — we’re all simply going to agree that that is how this works.” The present operates on this actuality [where a murder occurs and is solved in every episode]and Jessica Fletcher was by no means wanting into the digicam lens and rolling her eyes and saying, “Not once more!” It was like, for those who don’t speak about it, we received’t speak about it. There was one thing delightfully charming about that.
‘Magnum, P.I.,’ Season 4, Episode 1: ‘Residence From the Sea’
The sequence breaks from its customary action-adventure format to inform a narrative the place Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) displays on his childhood whereas he’s stranded in dangerous waters.
I’ve very, very vivid reminiscences of this episode, which I noticed after I was younger. Magnum is misplaced in the course of the ocean and has to tread water till he’s rescued. And the entire episode is his flashbacks to reminiscences of his father. It’s actually fantastically finished.
They intercut it together with his dad giving him his watch and going off to conflict. After which, simply as Magnum is about to break down, they reveal that the daddy died within the conflict. The scene is a flashback to the daddy’s funeral with little boy Magnum saluting him with the watch on his wrist.
I used to be so younger after I noticed it. I didn’t notice it was a flashback construction, and I assumed they have been chopping to Magnum’s funeral. So in my head, this was a towering story of man versus nature with this titanically impactful ending, of this tragic dying of this hero. So I completely misinterpret the episode. And but, it was this enormous, enormous factor in my psyche as a child. I assumed that will need to have been the finale. It may not have been till I went again and rewatched it for this interview, that I spotted, oh, [expletive].
Natasha Lyonne’s Picks
‘NYPD Blue,’ Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot
The debut episode of this influential crime drama, which pushed the boundaries for nudity and obscene language on community tv, launched viewers to the police detective John Kelly (David Caruso) and his foul-mouthed partner, Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz).
I’m not likely a tv individual. I’m actually Mr. Moviefonefor those who’re questioning the place he went. However I had some darkish years which were properly coated. And in these years, I found the web, and what a good way to get misplaced once you’ve received nothing to do however watch every little thing in that point.
I simply fell in love arduous with Sipowicz. To me, Dennis Franz in “NYPD Blue” is up there with [James] Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano. I used to be someone who had such an early love of Joe Pesci, Elliott Gould, Ben Gazzara, Harry Dean Stanton, Peter Falk and John Cassavetes. These are all my pals. And so after I found Sipowicz, I used to be like, Oh my God, he’s in that band in my thoughts.
These are the sheep I rely at night time to go to sleep. All of them maintain fingers collectively and stroll round within the shadow and silhouette, like on the finish of “The Seventh Seal.” All my boyfriends are there. All of them hang around collectively.
‘Columbo,’ Season 2, Episode 1: ‘Examine in Black’
Together with visitor stars like Blythe Danner and Myrna Loy, this episode options a murderous conductor played by CassavetesFalk’s buddy and collaborator from movies like “Husbands” and “A Girl Below the Affect.”
Ah, that one has two boyfriends: John and Peter. So it’s good to see them reunited. It warms my coronary heart.
I spent a lot time with these Cassavetes movies and his ebook “Cassavetes on Cassavetes.” And I really like what that episode is saying about the potential of working along with individuals you care about. For instance, Dascha Polanco was in “Orange Is the New Black” and “Russian Doll,” and now she’s in “Poker Face.” To have Janicza Bravo, who I’ve labored with just a few instances, and me and Rootbeer [Lyonne’s dog] hanging out in upstate New York, breaking down a script, is every little thing I really like about making issues.
In fact my love for Chloë [Sevigny] is full, and what was enjoyable on “Poker Face” is that [her and Lyonne’s characters] are usually not buddies. That’s her nemesis. There’s a actual pleasure to get to do this with someone that you understand so intimately, as a result of you may take larger swings and maintain one another trustworthy. It’s simply sparky and enjoyable.”
‘The Twilight Zone,’ Season 1, Episode 4: ‘The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine’
This installment from the unique run of Serling’s science-fiction anthology sequence stars Ida Lupino as a former film star who’s obsessive about watching and rewatching her previous motion pictures.
The episode is so meta and bizarre and tragic. The entire thing is weird as hell, and he or she’s nice in it.
My different favourite “Twilight Zone’ episode is [“Time Enough at Last”]however that’s additionally my dying fantasy and nightmare — ending up in a room stuffed with books after which my glasses break. It simply looks like Ida Lupino was a bit bit sexier right here. She not solely starred in an episode however she additionally directed one [“The Masks,” from Season 5].
Lupino has a kind of Kathryn Bigelow high quality to her that I tremendously admire — feminine filmmakers the place it doesn’t really feel like she was hemmed in by this necessity of telling a “lady’s story.” I at all times respect that, as a result of I do know firsthand how arduous it’s that there’s this expectation for girls to inform girl tales. You’ll assume, as a individuals, we’d be means, well past this by now.
In fact I’m glad to see any progress. However it’s additionally bizarre that we’re in a time the place it appears to be shifting in each instructions concurrently.
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