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Before Peacock's 'Poker Face,' revisit the 8 best mystery series
Rian Johnson's Poker Face premieres on Peacock this week. Here's what to watch before then to get in the sleuthing mood.
Poker Face, the new Peacock series from the mind of Knives Out creator Rian Johnson starring Natasha Lyonne, is set to premiere this week. The show, where Lyonne plays an “accidental detective” on the run, has a case-of-the-week episodic format, but it is different from many other murder mysteries out there in that it's not a whodunnit but a “how catch ‘em," where we start each episode off knowing who the murderer is.
That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t whodunnit TV series out there that can get you in the mood for watching Poker Face. Here is a list of our favorite murder mysteries to check out to get ready for the new show’s premiere.
Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996)
You can’t talk about murder mystery television shows without talking about Murder, She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher. The show features Angela Lansbury as Jessica, a mystery writer who lives in the small town of Cabot Cove, Maine, which seems to have a very high death rate given its presumably small population. The show ran for 12 seasons (and with 23 or 24 episodes per season, that’s a lot of murders!) and has Jessica using her super sleuthing abilities to solve each case.
Murder, She Wrote is now streaming on Peacock.
Unlike Lyonne’s Charlie Cale, Columbo isn’t an accidental sleuther. Columbo, played by Peter Falk, is a homicide detective in Los Angeles who would often crack cases by throwing the murderers off with his disheveled, “aw shucks” persona (a persona, it's worth noting, that's not so different from Charlie’s). Columbo, like Poker Face, is also a “how catch ‘em” series, where we know who the guilty party is from the beginning but follow to see how Columbo busts them.
Columbo is now streaming on Peacock.
Adrian Monk, played by Tony Shalhoub, is a former detective who is afraid of 312 things, and who, after a nervous breakdown following his wife’s violent death, didn’t even leave his house for several years. The show begins when he finally starts to tackle cases as a private detective, where his OCD and various phobias help him solve crimes. The eight-season series has both comedic and dramatic elements, and rightfully earned many Emmy nominations.
Monk is now streaming on Peacock.
Magnum P.I. (1980-1988; 2018- ongoing)
Magnum P.I., the 1980s crime drama starring Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a private investigator living in Hawaii, got a reboot in 2018 with Jay Hernandez as the titular Magnum. Both series have Magnum living on the luxurious estate of famous author Robin Masters, who writes fictionalized stories of Magnum’s exploits. In both shows, he also is often helped by Masters' employee, Higgins, and by his former U.S. Navy SEAL buddies, including the pilot, T.C., and the bartender, Orville “Rick” Wright.
The new Magnum P.I. has episodes available for digital purchase with the fifth season set to premiere on NBC on Feb. 19, 2023. The original show starring Selleck is now streaming on Freevee.
Remington Steele (1982-1987)
Before Pierce Brosnan was 007, he was Remington Steele on the eponymous 1980s television series. Steele is a former thief and con man who private investigator Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) hires as her fictional boss, since people wouldn’t hire her because of sexism. The mystery-of-the-week was tinted with the back-and-forth between the two characters (including their romantic interest in each other), though Laura was always the main investigator.
Remington Steele episodes are available for digital purchase.
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004-2013)
What would murder mysteries be without Agatha Christie? There have been many on-screen adaptations of her work over the decades, but the British series Marple is one worth watching, as the titular character is one of Christie’s most memorable. The series follows Miss Marple (played by Geraldine McEwan in the first three seasons and Julia McKenzie onward), an elderly woman who would often stumble across murders (as one does) as she travels around the English countryside visiting friends and family. Each of the series’ six seasons has three or four 90-minute episodes, and Miss Marple is the only character who shows up in each one to give us some substantive crime-solving.
Agatha Christie’s Marple is now streaming on Britbox.
Veronica Mars (2004-2019)
Veronica Mars starred Kristen Bell in the titular role, a high school student who is the daughter of a private investigator (Enrico Colantoni) in a southern California town. Veronica is a sleuth in her own right, and the series brings a noir mystery vibe to a teenage high school setting, with Veronica not only solving mysteries every episode, but also finding herself entangled in an overarching mystery that has her twisted up with some of her high school classmates (sometimes romantically, sometimes otherwise). The series is so popular that it got two movies greenlit a decade after the show first aired, with the last one dropping in 2019.
Veronica Mars is now streaming on Hulu.
The Afterparty (2022-present)
Apple TV+’s The Afterparty is a comedic whodunnit that shows us the happenings leading up to a murder, with each episode shot from a particular character’s point of view. The first season takes place at a high school reunion and stars Tiffany Haddish as the detective investigating the murder. The show’s second season, which sees Haddish return, takes place at a wedding where a key person in the ceremony is found dead. It’s a fun twist on the murder mystery genre, and one that will make you laugh more than once as you try to solve the murder.
The first season of The Afterparty is now streaming on Apple TV+ and the second season premieres on the streaming platform on Friday, Apr. 28.
Poker Face premieres on Peacock on Thursday, Jan. 26 when the first four episodes of the season drop. The remaining episodes will drop on a weekly basis after that.