‘Poker Face’ on Peacock: Natasha Lyonne is a contemporary Columbo

“Poker Face,” a brand new sequence starring Natasha Lyonne and created by Rian Johnson of “Knives Out”/“Glass Onion” fame, is a piece of pure pleasure, a comedy-mystery with roots that attain down half a century into the heyday of broadcast tv. Its particular antecedents are “Columbo,” whose opening credit it apes, in that we first see the homicide after which watch the star convey the killer to justice; and “The Fugitive,” in that Lyonne’s character is on the run and finds herself in a brand new place, wrapped in a brand new drama, each week. (I say drama, which is true sufficient on condition that persons are killed, however “Poker Face,” which premieres Thursday on Peacock, is on steadiness a comedy, and a constantly humorous one.)

It additionally calls again to an earlier age in that it’s firmly episodic and follows a components. That isn’t to say it’s uninspired — what retains the components from turning into formulaic are the writing, performing and staging, which inform us quite a bit in a bit of time with out ever feeling baldly expository or manipulative. However every episode has an analogous form, an order of enterprise. Streaming made serials de rigueur; right here you’re drawn again not by a cliffhanger however for a variation on the very factor you appreciated final week. There are nonetheless loads of these exhibits on community tv, typically sitcoms and procedurals, the place an issue is created and solved between the opening and shutting credit, nevertheless it’s uncommon to search out them on a streaming platform.

(Novice) detection fits Lyonne. “Russian Doll,” the sequence that, after “Orange Is the New Black,” cemented her return to the highlight — she obtained well-known younger, however there have been later years within the private {and professional} wilderness — was a thriller story as nicely: a mystical detective present wherein her Nadia wanted to find why she saved dying within the first season and touring by way of time within the second. “Poker Face,” for all its cleverness and fashionable attitudes, is as simple as could be, made merely, and expertly, to be loved — consolation meals, not “elevated,” however scrumptious.

As Charlie, Lyonne is the sequence’ solely common character, although Benjamin Bratt recurs as her pursuer, a safety chief employed by the on line casino the place we meet her working as a cocktail waitress. The pilot units up the phrases of her flight, that are an excessive amount of of a spoiler to spell out, however there’s a homicide, and in fixing it Charlie incurs the wrath of a robust particular person (with the voice of Ron Perlman). It’s a star flip, which is to say the actress herself is inextricable from the enjoyable, the case with most each profitable detective sequence. Her vibe runs from Brooklyn to the Borscht Belt — like Peter Falk’s Columbo, she’s New York Jewish — and he or she comes throughout onscreen as colourful, pleasant, eccentric, decided, existentially rumpled and, if we could detour for a phrase into Yiddish, heimish, even when her character is vexing or problematic. She’s like an uncle — aunt doesn’t actually seize it — who tells jokes you’ll be able to’t all the time observe and on occasion leans in to drag a nickel out of your ear.

Like Nadia, Charlie is particular. She has a nonsupernatural superpower: the flexibility to inform when an individual is mendacity. We be taught that earlier than she was serving drinks on the Frost on line casino and dwelling in a trailer within the desert, she used this capacity to make some huge cash taking part in poker; however that a part of her life has been compelled to a conclusion, which she doesn’t thoughts in any respect.

Adrien Brody, left, and Benjamin Bratt in “Poker Face.”

(Peacock/Karolina Wojtasik)

Nonetheless, because the sequence opens, the on line casino is being managed by the proprietor’s son, performed by Adrien Brody, who has realized her secret and has a proposition that can make her wealthy.

“I been rich,” says Charlie.

“How was it?”

“Easier than being broke. Harder than doing just fine.”

As soon as we see the homicide — its set-up, its execution — we hop again a bit of in time to search out that Charlie has already entered the scene. She could be working a low-profile job — a waitress at a dinner theater, a prepare dinner at an open-air barbecue joint, an attendant in a retirement dwelling, promoting merch on a tragic little rock tour — or caught on the town in a single day whereas her Plymouth Barracuda is being repaired. However she’s been round lengthy sufficient to determine a connection. Charlie’s a talkative, amiable, social creature, which, blended along with her innate conscience, makes her helpless to maintain from serving to the place assist is required. (She’s going to even take cost of a stray canine that appears to hate her.) “I think in another life you were, like, a knight,” a good friend tells her. “Lady Galahad.”

Along with her built-in bull detector, Charlie can be unable to relaxation when one thing appears off, and so she’ll follow an issue — attending to the underside of what seems to be like an accident, loss of life by pure causes, suicide or homicide by the hands of somebody already in custody — till she works it out. She does have an unlucky behavior of explaining to the killer or killers simply how they did it, and not using a policeman’s energy to then grasp the cuffs on them, and so commonly places herself in peril.

However, she manages to ship some type of justice every episode earlier than transferring on to the subsequent setting, the place, once more, somebody might be murdered. The absurd frequency with which this occurs may, one would suppose, be a trigger for remark — she’s a compulsive commenter and a born ironist — however such is the lot of the incidental detective, from Miss Marple to Father Brown to Jessica Fletcher.

The altering milieus and a pleasant visitor solid — together with John Ratzenberger, Lil Rel Howery, Tim Meadows, Ellen Barkin, S. Epatha Merkerson, Judith Mild, John Hodgman, Chloë Sevigny, Simon Helberg, Hong Chau and Okay Callan (the outdated girl in Johnson’s “Knives Out”) — hold “Poker Face” colourful and recent. Leaving apart the primarily magical expertise that can assist Charlie crack a case, not every little thing is totally believable, and the mechanics of the murders, which attain into the Massive Guide of Establishing an Alibi, can really feel a bit of acquainted. However with 136 years of thriller tales since Sherlock Holmes opened store, how might or not it’s in any other case? And familiarity — which breeds contentment as simply as contempt — is partly the purpose. Though it will likely be talked about greater than as soon as to Charlie that she isn’t in a tv present, after all she is. That’s why we’re right here, and sticking round.

‘Poker Face’

The place: Peacock

When: Any time, beginning Thursday

Score: TV-MA (could also be unsuitable for youngsters below the age of 17)