Monday, January 23, 2023

Murder Monday: Does Rian Johnson listen to BOTNS?

On the heels of his popular murder mystery film Glass Onion, director Rian Johnson talked to The New York Times about the classic TV that influenced his upcoming series Poker Face, which stars Natasha Lyonne as a woman who is forced to go across the country and solves mysteries each week as she does. Her "super power" is an ability to tell when anyone is lying.

I recommend reading the entire article because Johnson and Lyonne talk about an affection for Seventies and Eighties television and the case-of-the-week structure it offered (Poker Face, premiering this week, offers self-contained stories within an overall narrative arc for the season). Lyonne admits she didn't grow up as a TV person, but Johnson, as we know from the promotion he did for Onion, LOVES the stuff.

Johnson names 3 episodes that stand out as particular influences: Magnum P.I.'s fourth-season opener "Home by the Sea," a memorable one Mike and I have discussed; Columbo's "Any Old Port in a Storm" (Donald Pleasance + wine); and, hey, what do you know? Guess what episode of Murder, She Wrote Johnson highlights?

That's right, Season 1's "Murder on the Bus," the episode Mike and I discussed on the podcast!

Johnson says: "This episode is kind of Hitchcock-like, in the tradition of The Lady Vanishes, where a group of suspects are all displaced together. This one just happens to guest star Linda Blair and Rue McClanahan." There is something so perfect about that last sentence, I won't quibble about not mentioning Larry Linville or Michael Constantine.

He adds that he misses "the contract the audience had with the show," where Jessica would encounter a murder every single week, but she "was never looking into the camera lens and rolling her eyes and saying, 'Not again!' It was like, if you don't talk about it, we won't talk about it. There was something delightfully charming about that." 

As for Lyonne, she mentions the NYPD Blue pilot, "Etude in Black" from Columbo (Cassavetes), and The Twilight Zone's "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" with Ida Lupino. OK, that last one is a little further back, but who is going to complain about a Twilight Zone reference?

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