Let’s get one thing straight. I absolutely LOVE the new Peacock TV series Poker Face. The show features Natasha Lyonne as a person who can instantly tell if someone is telling the truth or lying – and uses that talent to solve crimes. It’s kind of like the old 70’s TV series Columbo, where the titular detective could smell the bullshit a mile away and coax the criminal into confessing
But here’s the thing. Natasha Lyonne’s character Charlie Cale isn’t a police officer or a private investigator. She’s on the run, avoiding capture because someone got killed and she was blamed for it. And thus we have a different TV series in action.
Poker Face is a modern retelling of the 1960’s classic The Fugitive.
The Fugitive, which can trace its roots to the Victor Hugo story Les Miserables, has a simple plotline. An innocent man (Dr. Richard Kimble, played by David Janssen) was falsely convicted of murdering his wife. He escaped, and is on the run. To keep a low profile, he takes menial jobs and changes his identity, hoping to find the evidence that will prove his innocence – all at the same time avoiding the police lieutenant (Lt. Philip Gerard, played by Barry Morse) who is determined to capture Kimble and bring him to justice.
This show lasted for four seasons, and was unique in that the final episodes featured a resolution of the storyline – Kimble found his one-armed man, and in the end, Kimble was found innocent of the original murder charge.
The Fugitive motif works for Poker Face as well. Follow me.
An innocent woman (Charlie Cale, played by Natasha Lyonne) was falsely convicted of murdering a Las Vegas casino owner. She escaped, and is on the run. To keep a low profile, she takes menial jobs, hoping to find the evidence that will prove her innocence – all at the same time avoiding the hired gun (Benjamin Bratt) hired by the casino owner’s father (Ron Perlman) who is determined to capture Charlie Cale and bring her to his own justice.
And it’s not like The Fugitive‘s structure wasn’t used in episodic television before. I give you another example.
Yep. The Incredible Hulk stayed on the air for four seasons by using that same Fugitive story technique.
An innocent man (Dr. David Banner, played by Bill Bixby) was falsely accused of murdering a fellow scientist. He escaped, and is on the run. To keep a low profile, he takes menial jobs and changes his identity, hoping to find the evidence that will prove his innocence – all at the same time avoiding the investigative reporter (Jack Colvin) who is determined to not only reveal that Banner is alive, but that he’s also a raging green monster who caused the scientist’s murder.
Even Saturday morning television used the Fugitive concept for their shows. Case in point – the drama Run, Joe, Run.
An innocent dog is accused for … you get it.
But the Fugitive theme is why Poker Face works so well. Charlie Cale has to take low-paying, off-the-grid work to stay undercover and away from capture. But in those moments, she runs into various crimes – and has to figure out how to bring the killer or thief to justice, while still staying out of sight of her pursuers (in one example, she stopped using her bank card because she was told that anybody could be located within four hours of using an ATM machine; and sure enough, the hired guns find her four hours later).
Yeah, I’m digging this TV show. I’m also glad that Poker Face was renewed for a second season.
Between Poker Face and that gritty urban reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, I’m digging the Peacock streaming service.
Oh, and Peacock does have the old Columbo episodes as well.
But surprisingly, they don’t have The Fugitive. At least not from my initial searching. 😀