"Pokerface" - a new detective series created by the creators of "Knives Out".

The streaming service Peacock has released four episodes of the detective comedy series "Pokerface". It was created by dialogue author Ryan Johnson, with Natasha Lyonne from "Orange Is The New Black" playing the lead role. In every episode, her character travels across America and reveals a new murder. Mikhail Kabo describes how this ironic show will appeal to fans of detective stories.

Charlie Cole (Natalie Lyonne) lives in a rundown trailer and works as a waitress at a Las Vegas casino. She used to be professionally good at playing poker, but her special talent turned her into an unknown figure in the world of gambling. The thing is that Charlie is like a walking lie detector; she can intuitively sense when someone's being dishonest or bluffing. One day, her friend and colleague Natalie (Dasha Polanco) is found murdered – the police believe it was done by her husband who later committed suicide. However, viewers know that Sterling Frost – the casino manager (Adrian Brody) and his head of security Cliff Legran (Benjamin Brett) are actually responsible for Natalie’s death. They got rid off their housekeeper after accidentally glimpsing something illegal and likely amoral on one of their important visitor’s laptop (most likely child pornography).

Charlie notices different discrepancies in the case and starts his own investigation. Unfortunately, the mafia doesn't like smart people, so he must run away. The action will move from Las Vegas casino to roadside dives of New Mexico, Texan family barbecues and tattered bars of Wisconsin. Everywhere he goes Charlie will find a motley bunch of criminals that he has to expose. The detective series “Pokerface” is Ryan Johnson's new project - creator of cult noir about high-schoolers "Bricks" and cosmic opera “Last Jedi” that caused a schism in the fandom of "Star Wars", as well as detective comedy with Daniel Craig “Knives Out”. The sequel to the last movie – “Glass Onion” - was released on Netflix just last month bringing Johnson another Oscar nomination for screenplay writing. It seems like director stakes his claim for the title of best modern day detective specialist.

Just like "Knives Out," "Pokerface" is an amusing and ironic road trip adventure featuring plenty of stars and cultural references. While films about detective Benoit Blanc parodied the Agatha Christie novels about Hercule Poirot (and there were many adaptations of that), the series based around Charlie Kool has made us recall shows like 'Murder She Wrote' starring Angela Lansbury and, certainly, 'Columbo' with Peter Falk. It's not a classic detective story where viewers are trying to figure out the culprit along with the protagonist but an inverted one - we are shown who did it within first five minutes. The main pleasure comes from seeing how the detective gradually puts all pieces together of jigsaw puzzle in order to judge criminals at last.

In addition, "Pokerface" restores the episodic structure which creators of “prestigious” TV content have rejected since the beginning of 2000s - after the success of "The Sopranos", "Mad Men", "Lost" and other long narrative shows. Each episode of "Pokerface" is standalone - starting from the second one they can be watched in any order. Each series brings new cases, heroes and cities. Such an approach, as well as a general light intonation of the show remind us about American TV shows from 80s which were aired on STS channel: “A-Team”, “Knight Rider” and “Magnum P.I.”

The second most important creative unit of "Pokerface" after Ryan Johnson is actress Natasha Lyonne, the producer and director for one of the series' episodes. Her career skyrocketed after her success in Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" (in Russia it is commonplace to joke about Lyonne's remarkable resemblance to Alla Borisovna Pugacheva). Behind Lyonne lies not only a colorful movieography, which includes comedic hits from the 2000s, Sundance indie films, quirky horrors, and even Woody Allen with Abel Ferrara; but also a complex life experience – conflicts with parents, heroin addiction and health problems.

Essentially, Charlie Coole, who starts her day with a bottle of beer and leads an undefined life, is the same as game developer Nadyia Vulkov from "Lives of Others", who gave in to self-destruction but also gains emotional resilience. Her hoarse voice, long tresses, vivid wardrobe and combination of kindness, sarcasm and frankness are all components that make up her charismatic heroines such as Lionne. What we see here is not just limited acting skills but a well-crafted character -- Bill Murray for example has used this to build his career.

The nostalgic format is sweeping away the dust and familiar characteristic actors, known as guest roles here are an attraction of their own. For example, Adrian Brody plays a pathetic casino manager, a copy of irresponsible heir Fredo Corleone from "Godfather 2". Fresh Oscar nominee Hong Chau appears as a long-haul trucker lesbian who wipes out digital traces and seals bullet wounds with super glue (“Actually hospitals use the same one, but pharmacists don't want you to know that"). Comic Lila Rell Hoover from ” Get Out” and “The Main Hero" got the role of barbecue business partner who kills his own brother (the reason will amuse cinephiles: he decided to close the profitable business after watching "Okja" by director Bong Joon Ho).Chloe Sevigny, favorite of provocateur directors, reincarnated in «Pokerface» into punk rocker ready to kill for past glory. And these are only first four episodes. Later on Johnson's project will include Simon Helberg from "The Big Bang Theory", Ellen Barkin ("Substitution"), Nick Nolte , Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ron Perlman.

Ryan Johnson doesn't attempt to include satire, like in "Knives Out" where he mocked the foolish wealthy and super-wealthy. Nevertheless, the characters of "Pokerface" also remind us of typical Coen Brothers criminals from "Fargo," "The Hateful Eight," or even "Burn After Reading." As we know, the primary goal for a detective (and genre as well as investigator) is never to let a criminal go unpunished. And watching how criminals are punished time after time for their foolishness and bitterness turns out not to be dull, but surprisingly therapeutic spectacle.

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