In an interview with The Ringer, Rian Johnson was inevitably asked about how “Poker Face” compares to “Columbo.” From the audience seeing the murder happening at the beginning of each episode, to the little clues left behind for Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) to pick up on while pestering the murderer, the similarities give “Poker Face” a strong “Columbo” vibe. However, rather than just sticking to a single show to take inspiration from, Rian Johnson instead took notes from a variety of other programming from his childhood. Here’s what he said to The Ringer when asked about his influences for “Poker Face” beyond “Columbo”:
“I’d include ‘The Rockford Files’ and ‘Quantum Leap,’ but also ‘Highway to Heaven’ and [the 1978 TV series] ‘The Incredible Hulk.’ It’s kind of got the DNA of all that stuff. And that’s the stuff that I was sitting on the rug in front of my family’s TV watching reruns of every single afternoon as a kid. It’s the TV that I was raised on.”
The “DNA” of these shows is certainly there when you watch an episode of “Poker Face” play out. Bill Bixby’s man-on-the-run character of Bruce Banner in “The Incredible Hulk,” who helps bring justice to whatever town he ends up in, is recreated with a much less gloomy angle with Charlie’s fugitive status. And much like Jim Rockford in “The Rockford Files,” Charlie is also down on her luck, living in a mobile home in the first episode where she is very much not an officer of the law. “Poker Face” thrives off of its influences, and the structure’s repetitive nature isn’t a detriment to the show — it’s actually a big reason viewers should tune in every week.