“Poker Face” is a throwback in both format and tone — an episodic murder mystery of the week series in an age of serialized storytelling that focuses on overlooked pockets of America as opposed to fantastical realms and post-apocalyptic what-ifs. With the first season over, there won’t be much like it on television for a while — at least until Season 2 premieres.
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t more like it on television at one point. For the sake of fighting your “Poker Face” withdrawal, the Peacock series’ showrunners Nora and Lilla Zuckerman shared the shows that influenced the series’ take on the howcatchem on a recent episode of IndieWire’s Tooklit podcast.
Listen to our entire interview with Nora and Lilla Zuckerman below. To hear this and more conversations with your favorite TV and film creators, subscribe to the Toolkit podcast via Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Spotify, or Overcast.
“One of the joys of finally putting this show out in the world [is having] shows like ‘Columbo’ and ‘Murder, She Wrote’ exist on Peacock,” Nora Zuckerman told IndieWire. “People have been watching ‘Poker Face’ and rolling right into episodes of ‘Columbo’ or rolling into ‘Murder, She Wrote.’ It’s been so fun to see young people who are like, ‘I’ve never seen an episode of “Columbo,” now I want to check it out.’”
In terms of where to start and which episodes informed “Poker Face,” the Zuckermans have a few favorite “Columbo” episodes. “I love the Leonard Nimoy episode [‘A Stitch in Crime’]. That one’s wonderful. ‘Murdered by the Book’ is about a writing team, so Lilla and I probably have a certain affinity to that one, too,” Nora Zuckerman said.
Courtesy Everett Collection
“My favorite episode is actually about a woman author who is kind of an Agatha Christie type,” Lilla Zuckerman said. “Not only is she absolutely diabolical and wicked in this murder she pulls off, but then she and Columbo actually form a friendship, and it is actually very heartbreaking when he has to get justice and put her away. It’s called ‘Try and Catch Me.’ It reminds me a little bit of [Episode 5 of ‘Poker Face’] ‘Time of the Monkey’ where Charlie has this bond with Joyce and Irene, and it is really heartbreaking when she has to do the right thing and confront them and put them away.”
Read More: Every Episode of ‘Poker Face,’ Ranked
But the construction of “Poker Face” episodes, which begin with the audience watching a murder (or in some cases what seems like a murder) from one particular vantage point before Charlie stumbles into solving it, also draws from more recent entries in the detective genre. “I love a British show called ‘Luther’ that has a lot of fans and in some ways, it’s a classic howcatchem, but done in such a different way,” Nora Zuckerman said. “It’s incredibly, totally different, but the murder at the top of a ‘Luther’ episode is its own little movie in some way.”
“The other thing I’ll mention that I watched that is not necessarily in the murder mystery genre, but was really informative, illuminating, and inspiring, is I went back, and I watched a lot of [1950s anthology series] ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents,’” Lilla Zuckerman said. “I would encourage people to dip into that as well. The storytelling is so modern. It’s so resonant. It is spooky and fun and sinister and subversive and super creative, so I had a great time revisiting all of that.”
“I’m just hoping we’re making murder mystery stories cool again. I mean, Rian already did it in the movies. We’re hoping to do it in television,” Nora Zuckerman said.