A Star-Studded, Highly-Addictive Case-of-the-Week Series – Rolling Stone

Once a At the time, most were like television A heartless faceA new Peacock drama created by Glass onionStarring Rian Johnson and Russian dollby Natasha Lyonne. It is a purely episodic, case-of-the-week show. Each episode sets up its own unique story, which Lyon’s Charlie Cale finds a way to end at the end of the hour. There are some very loose running threads, but you could theoretically watch every episode but the first in any order and get equal enjoyment out of each episode. It’s a show that leans heavily on its star appeal and the ability of Johnson and the other writers and directors to make every story so interesting that you want to keep coming back without any real cues. continue on.

For decades, TVs worked like this. Then came along Wire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc., and suddenly the episode of the week is gone — simple stuff from before we knew TV could be better. Serialization was the new king, and if each episode didn’t somehow contribute to the larger story, what was the point?

Television has benefited immensely from this shift in many ways. The best shows of this century have been able to aim high, go deep, and take incredible advantage of the time offered by telling a story about one set of characters until the end. But in other ways, you’re really missing something. Serialization has become a formula, as has pure episodic storytelling. Too many showrunners — whether they’re screenwriters who tried to spin the plot of a movie they couldn’t sell, or who learned all the wrong lessons from watching it. the sopranosOr thought it would be easier to just copy Breaking BadStructure of – mistakenly assume that an ongoing story is fundamentally interesting because it runs for an entire season or an entire series. Complexity is considered rewarding for its own sake, as it adds any value to the story being told. So we get these long, shapeless slurs — “This is a 10-hour movie!” – They forget how to entertain because they only care about forward motion.

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So, thank God for Johnson, Leon and everyone else involved in the making A heartless face. It deploys all the classic elements of yesteryear, but in a way that makes the show feel thoroughly modern — just like that Knife out And Glass onion Inspired by Agatha Christie’s mysteries.

Charlie, we learn, was once an unbeatable poker player thanks to an unusual, essentially superhuman ability: she can always tell when someone is lying. Eventually, she ran away from the wrong people, and now works as a cocktail waitress in a Nevada casino, just trying to stay out of trouble. But as with this type of show, trouble inevitably finds her, always in the form of a murder that only she can solve, because she knows the killer is full of it.

The format is a mix of classics Colombo Open secrets and the approach Johnson took with the Benoît Blanc films. Each episode opens in 10-15 minutes without Charlie, as we meet the murderers and their victims and see how and why the murders happened. The stories then rewind to show how Charlie knew these characters, before finally finding out what happened, as well as a way to bring the bad guys to justice — even though Charlie isn’t a cop and, in fact, has to stay away from the law because the events of the first episode make her a becomes a fugitive who has to travel anonymously from city to city. (The only ongoing element is a casino promoter, played by Benjamin Bratt, who has been chasing her around the country since the events of the pilot, but that’s relatively minor and infrequent in the critically acclaimed episodes.)

Lil Ray Howery as Taffy in ‘Poker Face’.

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The settings and types of guest stars vary from episode to episode. In one, she has a job at a Texas barbecue run by Lil Rell Howery; In another, she’s the roadie of a one-hit wonder heavy metal band where Chloe Sevigny is an old lady desperate for a comeback.

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There was already a bit of Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo in Lyon Russian doll Performance, Charlie is a very different kind of character: friendly and curious about the people and world around her. It’s an absolutely magnetic and winning performance, where she’s as good as herself — say, tasting a variety of wood to identify one of Lil’ Rail’s lies — as she is interacting with terrific guest stars like Hong Chow (as an antagonist). the social long-haul trucker) or Ellen Barkin (as an eighties TV star now performing in dinner theatres).

And like the Blank movies, this is a show that uses every part of the buffalo. No matter how disposable a scene may seem—say, Charlie having a funny encounter with a stranger in a trash can—eventually the plot will gain some kind of significance. The whole thing is damned clever – with plenty of ways to show the limits of being a human lie detector – and light on its feet.

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That said, because the show A heartless face So rare have become — or, at least, things like this that are executed so well — that there is a danger of being overly laudatory. As with any episodic drama, some episodes are stronger than others, especially in the Leon-free opening sequence. In part five, for example, Judith Light and S. Ipatha Merkerson portrays the former seventies revolutionaries who are now two of the toughest, meanest broads in their post-retirement society; The combination of that premise and these great veteran actors is so strong that I almost forgot I was waiting for Charlie. But the second episode, involving a trio working the night shift at a shop next to a truck stop, really kicks off when that familiar mop of strawberry blonde hair shows up. And even when she does turn, the flashback segments can occasionally make you impatient to get to the part where Charlie starts to poke holes in the killer’s story. (Colombo Episodes ran between 70 and 100 minutes, giving Falk and the guest stars plenty of time to interact; (After the 67-minute debut episode, which must establish Charlie’s backstory and premise, all others are an hour or less, sometimes significantly less.)

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But gosh, what a relief and joy to see a TV show that actually wants to be a TV show and knows how to do it at this high level. Johnson and Leon have said they want to make it A heartless face As far as possible. Here’s hoping they get a chance. This is a wonderful.

The first four episodes of A heartless face Start streaming on Peacock on January 26, with additional episodes released weekly. I have watched the first six episodes out of 10 episodes.


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