Why ‘Cheers’ Favorite John Ratzenberger Makes a Rare TV Appearance in ‘Poker Face’

Natasha Lyonne and John Ratzenberger in the second episode of Poker face. (Photo: Evans Vestal Ward/Pauw)

It’s been 30 years since Boston’s friendliest bar closed its doors, but everyone still knows John Ratzenberger’s name. The cheers the lucky charm turned Pixar star appears on screen in an increasingly rare live action Poker face, the new ‘case of the week’ crime series from Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne. In the tradition of classic detective shows like Columbo and Murder she wroteeach episode features guest appearances from famous faces from movies and TV shows past and present, and Ratzenberger takes center stage in the second hour of the show, now streaming on Peacock.

“He’s an absolute legend,” Johnson enthuses cheers‘s resident random trivia master – and famous Danger! flop. “He came to Albuquerque and was so happy to be there. He would prank us on set.” Lyonne confirms that Ratzenberger liked to keep the cast and crew laughing while guest starring with very special comedic styles. “John would say something weird that you don’t think he’s listening to, and then he would go wild on this whole mini riff,” she recalled. “He’s a funny, funny guy.”

Johnson adds that Ratzenberger’s presence in the second episode reflects the show’s overall approach to the large group of guest stars who will appear over the course of the first season, including Judith Light, Tim Meadows, and Ron Perlman. “It’s about having people on screen who will bring you joy,” he notes, adding another cheers cameo is planned for a future episode. “Rhea Perlman also has a role later on, so we’re slowly putting the back together cheers form.”

Check out our interview with the stars and creator of Poker face on Youtube

Ratzenberger’s episode not only sets the stage for future joyful cameos, but also captures the tone and structure of a typical Poker face case after the premiere of the Johnson-led series is doing all the heavy world building. The super-sized premiere shows how Charlie Cale, Lyonne’s former card sharp, is forced to flee Las Vegas after running afoul of a casino mogul and his dogged security chief, played by Benjamin Bratt – the series’ only other regular cast member besides Lyonne .

In the sophomore outing, Charlie moves into a small town in the middle of nowhere… and promptly finds himself caught up in a murder investigation. The conceit of Poker face is that viewers immediately know the killer’s identity, but Charlie must find out what happened to her Incredible Hulk-like superpower: the ability to catch someone in a lie. In this particular case, Ratzenberg plays local mechanic Abe, who has a personal connection to the killer.

Abe is also representative of the kind of characters Johnson likes to appear in Poker face: middle-country working-class Americans not typically seen on network crime shows or big screen detective threads like the director’s Knives out franchise. “That was a big part of the show, this idea of ​​Charlie going places that you don’t see on a lot of TV shows,” Johnson affirms. “It won’t be tall buildings where she takes down executives. It will be regional dinner theaters and stock car races. It’s exciting to be able to do little deep dives into those corners of America.”

“Our joke was that this show doesn’t take place at the Four Seasons,” adds Lilla Zuckerman, who serves as Poker face‘s showrunner alongside her sister, Nora Zuckerman. “It takes place in Four Seasons Total Landscaping.”

Poker face also makes a point of revealing that those corners of America now have a more diverse population than often expected. That’s a stretch with recent shows like the Apple TV+ anthology series, Little America — overseen by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon – who similarly seeks to dispel some of the long-held myths about what the so-called “real America” ​​looks like today. “There are microcultures all over our country,” Zuckerman notes. “Our show is really a celebration of that.”

Johnson says so Poker faceThe diversity on screen was also reflected in the writers’ room. “We tried to put some work into getting into those little worlds that we delve into,” he explains. “We tried to get as close to reality as possible. Obviously it’s not a Frederick Wiseman documentary – it’s still a detective show. But we wanted to put together a writers’ room with a certain amount of diversity in terms of backgrounds and also where people came from in the country.”

Poker face currently streaming on Peacock

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