Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The new Perry Mason

On the TV series, Perry Mason would be grilling someone on the witness stand and have that one pivotal question; that one knock-out punch.  If he had the creators of the new HBO series PERRY MASON on the stand he would ask, “Why should anybody GIVE A SHIT?” 


Okay, I only watched the premiere, and yes the production values were lovely, and it boasted a star-studded cast headlined by Matthew Rhys, John Lithgow, and Tatiana Maslany. 


But I sooooo didn’t care.


About anybody. 


And mostly I hated “Perry Mason.”  I added the quotations because they could have called the series ROB PETRIE – that’s how much he had in common with the iconic lawyer.   In this version, Perry is a dyspeptic private eye in LA in the ‘30s.   Maybe by the end of the series he becomes a lawyer, but I doubt I’ll get that far. 


Here’s my question (if it pleases the court):  Why call this guy Perry Mason?  Why just trade on the name to do a completely different character?  Were they afraid we wouldn’t watch if the show was called BEN FENTON?   


There’s a real trap in calling it PERRY MASON.  And everyone else has fallen into it too that has tried to revive the franchise.  Raymond Burr IS Perry Mason.  Period.  I guarantee you if Sean Connery made 271 James Bond films no one would buy Roger Moore (not that everyone does anyway).   There have been other actors playing Perry Mason (Monty Markham springs to mind), but it’s just weird.  


There’s something else PERRY MASON has to compete with – CHINATOWN and LA CONFIDENTIAL.   Both covered the arena and time period brilliantly.  So far I’d rather screen either of them than this PERRY MASON.  


But those are quibbles compared to my main question:  Why should anyone GIVE A SHIT?   It’s not that they have to be heroic, but at least interesting, intriguing, involved.   I normally love Matthew Rhys, but he’s so disgruntled and so bitter that I just keep hoping Mr. Rogers will show up and fix him again. 


I think I’ll give PERRY MASON one more week to see if it rights itself, but if it doesn’t I’ll be calling a mistrial. 


What did you guys think?


Pidge said...

I lasted 20 minutes. My husband, who was looking forward to this show, encouraged me to turn it off. Feh.

Gary Campbell said...

I agree with you. I think the gratuitous sex and violence was pointless, and mutilating babies crosses the line. The noir genre was much better served by LA Confidential and Chinatown. I would rather watch reruns of Raymond Burr.

Matt said...

Perry Mason was a character in a book (or several books). I am sure the original TV adaptation was different. If you are going to redo Perry Mason than you should go back to the books instead of creating a new character and calling him Perry Mason.

Michael said...

I agree, and let me add to it: what's with remaking a story so you can prove you're smarter or more modern than the original? I think of "Cape Fear". Scorcese's changes added nothing and (IMO) weakened the power of the story.

J Lee said...

Hollywood's had a quarter-century infatuation with taking the name of an iconic TV series for it's immediate brand recognition, and then not giving a damn about what made the show popular in the first place by 'reimagining' it to fit the template they want to do.

Once in a while it works, as with Tom Cruise's "Mission: Impossible" reboot that had little to do with the original show. Most of the times, it just falls on its face because fans of the original feel like they've been victimized by a bait-and-switch to watch, and newbies don't find enough compelling about the updated version of the characters to hang around.

ELS said...

They offended me right at the start. Perry Mason isn't a detective (although he might have been); he's an attorney. It's like trying to present Batman as an escaped convict who's trying to clear his own name; an interesting premise, but they got the character ALL WRONG.

James said...

This is my argument against the Mission Impossible movies. They made a James Bond movie and called it MI, even though it has precious little in common with the series. Meanwhile the Bond movies s---canned the movie Bond character in favor of a more brooding, darker character that should be a new, different franchise.

I'm waiting for the re-make of Adam's Rib with Liam Neeson and Anne Hathaway as a co-abusive, co-dependent, violent alcoholic couple who work through their demons by day in court advocating opposite sides of a high profile wrongful-death/police brutality case.

Unkystan said...

I felt the same way about Elementary. Trading in on the Sherlock Holmes name.

cmsof said...

I didn't like it, for many of the same reasons you outline. This whole project is baffling to me. Who is this show for? Are there legions of Perry Mason fans? Would those alleged fans be satisfied with this interpretation? The dark, gritty thing seems to have finally run its course. The real world is shitty enough. This one is a hard pass for me.

Baylink said...

What do I think?

Largely what you do...

Moreso, though.

I think that if you, as a studio or producer, buy a story from a writer -- "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan", let us say, you're doing that *for the express purpose of attracting consumers who are fans of that material*.

If you then deliver something that is mildly different from that material ("Hunt for Red October") or notably different ("Clear and Present Danger", in which Dan Murray, whom we need later, gets killed, gratuitously), or *wildly* different (the Prime series of the same name, which sure as hell is *not* "Tom Clancy's" Jack Ryan... and isn't mine either -- I couldn't sit through the first episode, *even* understanding about "Pilot Syndrome")...

Then you've committed material commercial fraud, implicitly promising the audience what they'll get, and then delivering something completely different.

But people keep buying it, so producers will keep selling it.

Just not to me.

But I can't be alone in this, right? Right?

Mike Doran said...

Well, Ken, since you asked …

Ever since HBO announced this version, I've been saying this to anyone who'd listen (and to quite a few who wouldn't).
And when the rebooters started saying that they were "going back to the original '30s concept of the character" -
- and then started announcing the "revisions" they were making toward that end -

Look, here are my bona fides about Perry Mason:
- The CBS series came on the air when I was seven years old, so I wasn't really paying attention back then.
My mother had been reading the stories in print (mainly as serials in The Saturday Evening Post), so she was on board from Go.

- By the mid-sixties, I had become a fan of mystery/detective fiction in all its forms; this was late in Mason's CBS run, but there it was, waiting for me.
The paperback reprints of the early novels were always in print, and when CBS ended the TV run, the syndicated reruns were there to enhance my education.

- I was also developing an interest in television behind the scenes: who was doing what, before and behind the camera.
So I became a credit reader, which I am to this day (or would be if TV credits were still readable - but that's another story …).

- Farther along, I learned about Erle Stanley Gardner's control over the TV series, and in particular the writing of his characters; all of this is extensively documented.

- I'm starting to natter here; I don't call myself an "expert" (the most misused word in the language) on Perry Mason, but I have a good idea of what I'm talking about here.

As to HBO's nuPerry Mason:

The first Red Flag was the long string of F-bombs at the very beginning of the show.
This is NOT " '30s crime fiction".
The writers of that period had to bargain to have characters say "hell" and "damn".
The Fs started in within two minutes of fade-in; the kinky parts followed not long after, and the cause became lost.
And we still haven't seen "Harry Shriner" yet.
That's how I'm thinking of him, because this is NOT Perry Mason.
Hell, it's not even Ed Stark.
That's what Erle Stanley Gardner called the character in the earliest drafts of the first novel.
And Stark went through quite a few modifications on the way to becoming Mason (all documented elsewhere).

The problem here - the source of all the other problems - is that the new producer/writers have no idea of the period, the people, and the style of what they're doing.
If you're doing a period piece, do the period as it was - not as you believe it ought to have been.

I'm nattering again, so I'll stand down for the nonce and see what others of you have to say (Trolls need not apply).

Mibbitmaker said...

I haven't watched the new show, but it sounds like maybe they're trying for a prequel of sorts? Perry Mason, a detective in the 1930s who eventually became the lawyer he's famous as being by the 1950s, when the original show started. Even if so, it sounds like a needless retcon.

Redoing old properties unlike they originally were is definitely a problem in Hollywood. Just come up with original characters, and if the final product comes off like a tribute to an existing franchise, admit that and it comes out okay, possibly (if it's any good to begin with).

One example of reimagining a show I liked a lot was the Brady Bunch Movie. The idea of presenting it as a satire of the old series was a masterstroke. And for what it's worth, I think of even that as having been done, in a way, on the show: the episode where the family was picked to be in a commercial came off as a sly wink to the show's image. And a spoof of advertising to boot. One of my favorites.

Mike Bloodworth said...

It would be better with alliteration. e.g. Frank Fenton of Fred Fenton or Fenton Fenton. That I might watch.

Otherwise, see yesterday's comment.


Anna said...

I liked it, but I'm mostly in it for the cast. I'm old enough to remember the TV movies, but I was never particularly interested in watching them. I have no objection to a new origin story that will eventually end with him becoming the lawyer by the end of the season.

myrna said...

My sentiments exactly. There was no justification for naming the show and the main character "Perry Mason." And imo the sex scenes were overdone and ugly. Won't bother with episode 2.

Bob Harlow said...

I had the same reaction as yours. I can’t understand
why anyone thought this was a good idea. It’s hard enough to watch the old movies with Warren William or
Ricardo Cortez playing Perry Mason as a lawyer after a
lifetime of Raymond Burr.

Daniel said...

I haven't seen Perry Mason yet, but I generally love dark, gritty, realistic, deconstructed reboots like Batman Begins, Man of Steel, Casino Royale, King Kong (2005), Dracula Untold, The Wolfman (2010), NBC's Hannibal, Robert Downey, Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes, Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, and Antoine Fuqua's Magnificent Seven and King Arthur. It sounds like Perry Mason is in a similar vein.

What a lot of people don't like about these reboots is what I love: the deconstructed nature of it. Take the core elements of a property, break it down, and then rebuild it with an eye toward logic, not nostalgia.

blinky said...

In the final episode it turns out he is a Russian spy and Sister Alice is a clone of a clone of a clone.

HBO seems to have lost its way. They should go back and audit their classics like The Wire, The Sopranos and Rome.

Dana King said...

It sounds like something I wouldn't care for, but I figured that before I knew what they changed. PERRY MASON and Raymond Burr captured a unique vibe that no one is going to be able to reclaim. They couldn't even do it when Burr recreated the role as a Denver(?) lawyer for some TV movies.

I agree with your comment about trying to trade on the name while doing nothing like what the name implies. This is what I caught when I read about the GET SHORTY TV series, which apparently does the same thing. I have no interest in it. If you want to give me something new, make it NEW, and then give e a reason to care. These are bait and switch jobs.

Jack West said...

I'm so glad you asked what I think... The most remarkable thing about the show is Matthew Rhys' ability to speak in a pretty much authentic-sounding American accent. Other than that, deep into the episode, I was convinced the outcome would be Mason so hates his life that he decides to change careers and go to law school. And at some points during the show, I admit I did expect Dick Tracy to bust in as backup. Like the baby, by the end of the show to keep viewing it would've helped to have my eyes stitched open.

Craig Gustafson said...

Yeah. Not going anywhere near this. I love the show and the books. I just finished re-reading one of the books; if you're in the mood for going back to the original, read "The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink." It has the only last line in the series that is legitimately jaw dropping, especially if you know what "shot while trying to escape" was code for at that time.


Similarly, I will never go near the Steve Martin "Sgt. Bilko." You want to do a military comedy? Great. Just don't call it Bilko. To promote the movie, Nick at Nite ran a Bilko marathon, with clips in between of Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd and Phil Hartman talking about the movie. Brilliant, exquisitely written comedy, interspersed with three smug, condescending actors downgrading the series - "Of course, we can't play it *that* big these days," and convincing everybody watching to stay the hell away. The movie clips were godawful.

Steve Martin was so shocked and disheartened by the movie's bombing that he left Hollywood for three years.

Kaleberg said...

The earlier Perry Mason novels were a bit pulpier than the later ones. By the 1960s, there was no way that Mason was going to threaten to sock some guy in the jaw. Still, he was always a lawyer and solved his cases using the rules of evidence, legal procedure while farming out the investigative work to a consummate professional, Paul Drake, who knew how to set up a rough shadow. He and Della Street may have had separate apartments, but it was rather obvious they were having an affair. In case anyone had any doubt about Erle Stanley Gardner's intended audience, just about every book was dedicated to some coroner or forensics expert.

There's no reason this couldn't have been modernized. This remake is a completely different setup.

Kevin said...

Obviously they are just clinging to the name recognition, but even that is kind of pointless. Only a specific demographic really knows who PERRY MASON is at this point, and that older group of people won't want a version that doesn't resemble their memories of the character. So, you're right, they could have called it KEN LEVINE.

It's the same head scratching move CBS did with the Matthew Perry ODD COUPLE a few years ago. Why does it have to be called that? How many thousands of sitcoms have been based on that premise over the years and called it, say, PERFECT STRANGERS instead? Calling it THE ODD COUPLE just means you have to name them Felix & Oscar and pay Neil Simon's estate. But worst of all, you are most certainly going to tarnish the brand by trotting out a crappy version of it.

Unknown said...

Why can't new shows be done with out all the sex and swearing? During lock down trying to find a show/movie to watch as a family with 2 teenagers, EVERYTHING has unnecessary language and sex. 98% of the time, the sex scene can be edited out without affecting the plot.
Show them kissing, move into a bedroom, end scene. No need to see the humping.

Anonymous said...

The lead actor has a problem that is endemic to today's actors. They lack the testosterone to be convincing male leads. The lead actor literally looks like the victim of a testicle operation, gone horribly wrong, and now he's a bit of a woman. I maintain that testosterone played a major part of that role. You have to be able to generate it, as the lead.

To make matters worse, Raymod Burr was GAY, and he's FAR more butch than his feminized replacement!

I guess it goes with the turf of our times, but as a boomer, I noticed our generation lacked the testosterone to produce a Humphrey Bogart level of leading man of our age. Or even a Joseph Cotton! Who did we have to replace them? Harrison Ford? No chance. I like Ford, but... not enough testosterone. Jack Nicholson was an adequate replacement, but where is this generation's Jack Nicolson?

Nowhere. Testosterone isn't available.

I don't know what can be done, except to avoid inserting girly men into iconic male roles of the past.

flurb said...

Out of more than three hundred million Americans, there's not a single American actor suited to play Perry Mason? I don't question Rhys' talent, particularly, though I've never been wowed by him, either in THE AMERICANS or the Mister Rogers movie. I've long been sensing that it's easier for British and Australians to land leading roles - Superman, Batman, Spiderman - than any people who possess the accents required already. And it doesn't go the other way nearly as often - Lithgow as Churchill, maybe, and, a lifetime ago, Zellwegger as Bridget Jones. I concede that actors should act, regardless of where they came from - I'm just a little concerned that there are Marlon Brandos and Bette Davises out there who aren't getting a look in because they don't normally talk differently; and it's looking like laziness.

Jeff Maxwell said...

I cannot bring myself to watch the “Perry Mason” reboot, or whatever it is. It sounds miserable to anyone, like myself, who loved the original Perry Mason. Plus, my aunt and uncle were married in Pasadena, California, and one of their fellow students from the Pasadena Playhouse, Raymond Burr, was their best man. How could I possibly stray?

But I sure liked the Get Shorty series. Chris O’Dowd, Ray Ramano and the rest of the cast were just fun as hell.

Sounds like new Perry is no fun at all.

Todd Everett said...

The original Perry Mason - in the books and movies - didn’t have much in common with the Burr version. I liked the first episode, though I prefer Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, with which it shares setting and atmosphere.

Maybe you’d like Perry Mason more if he were played by Nathan Lane. I know I would.

That said, why did they have to name the characters in a Elementary Holmes and Watson when they had zip to do with any of the earlier incarnations, including the execrable Robert Downey Jr. movies?

Steve B. said...

The story behind this project is that Robert Downey Jr. and his wife got the rights to the "Perry Mason" property. They debated doing a modern take vs. a period piece, and the Downeys were really turned on by the idea of a dark gritty origin tale.

I haven't seen it yet - I'd say it sounds like they chose the wrong route, but the first ep got a massive sampling on HBO.

Rich said...

Wouldn’t it have made more sense if it was an Ironside prequel?

Pete Grossman said...

True! I really didn't give a shit! Really wanted to like this. Had the show set to record for the whole season, but after viewing the 1st episode, 86'd it. And yeah, why call it "Perry Mason?" This guy's got quite an arc of growth if he becomes a trial lawyer. I will probably give it a second shot, but right now, man, I don't want to see such a bummer. Could it just be the timing of this release? Nah.

-3- said...

I think you're being overly generous even looking at yet another reboot property. The creators have announced that they don't have any ideas of their own, so why bother with it?

More to the point - why reward them for it?

If nobody watched all these sad grabs for past glory, then maybe they'd stop making them.

Except Disney, of course. They'll keep recycling as long as they can keep stealing (okay - legally not paying for the re-use of) the work on the animated classics, and as long as parents will drop their kids in front of anything with the D to shut them up for a while.

Brian Phillips said...

Mike Doran did a great job of summing up the issues I had with this show. I'd like to add the following:

We are in an era of Snark 'n' Shock. The "Snark" applies to the reboots of old kiddie fare with one too many nods and winks to the adults. Is it truly a crime to revisit a property without trying to be a 4th generation Tex Avery?

The "Shock" applies to the dark reboots. I certainly know what it's like to revisit Archie Comics properties umpteen times (Everything's Archie, Archie's Sunday Funnies, US of Archie, The Bangshanglalapalooza Hour), but SAKES! Riverdale as a dysfunctional Peyton Place? Yow. The Banana Splits as murderers?

For me, it seemed to start with "The Wild, Wild West" with Will Smith and Kevin Kline. My Good Lady Wife agreed that this was a film about the west, just not "The Wild, Wild West".

As a fan of detective shows and fiction, I like sleuthing. The first bit of this happens about midway in...and it comes from the Mother of the victim, not Mason. I have no problems with an anti-hero, Robbie Coltrane's Cracker is shown to be a gambler, drinker, and a boor whose wife leaves him, yet, it is also shown that he is brilliant and wickedly funny. It's the story of a man finding where his talents can be best applied. The Incredibles starts out with a daring rescue, THEN the sidelined family is shown. I have a reason to root for them.

This is all sidelines.

I see a misanthrope who makes his first discovery all the way at the end of the episode. There is positively nothing to show me that he is a good detective before that. If you're going to go this dark, show me an INKLING as to why anyone should trust a case to him. Any number of Film Noirs do that.

Also, what gives with the music? We veered from Jazz to Jazz-ish music with electronics. If you're going to beat me over the head to be a period piece (the producers boasted in the making of featurette, "I want the audience to be immersed in the period."), I don't want synthesizers. If this is to be a "prequel" to Perry Mason, I'm not interested on how this guy becomes a lawyer. Maybe if I got half of the detective part and half of the lawyer part, I might be more intriqued.

David from Boston said...

My wife is a huge fan of the original television series. Me, not so much, but we were both anxious to see this origin story of the iconic lawyer. We’ve also agreed to give it one, maybe two more episodes. It’s terribly graphic and I suppose some people might enjoy hearing Perry Mason utter the F word but that wears thin very quickly. Having just read a terrific book about the story of Ami Semple McPherson I am anxious to see what they do with that character. Maybe because my expectations are lower I will enjoy it more.

marka said...

Friday Question

I'm here listening to your podcast where you're talking about rewriting jokes for your play "A or B" until six in the morning.

Are you mostly coming up with new jokes in a situation like that or rewriting the original jokes - different words, different beats, different dialects, different set ups, but essentially keeping the same joke?

Thanks, Ken!

D McEwan said...

"Anonymous said...
The lead actor has a problem that is endemic to today's actors. They lack the testosterone to be convincing male leads. The lead actor literally looks like the victim of a testicle operation, gone horribly wrong, and now he's a bit of a woman. I maintain that testosterone played a major part of that role. You have to be able to generate it, as the lead.

To make matters worse, Raymod Burr was GAY, and he's FAR more butch than his feminized replacement!

I guess it goes with the turf of our times, but as a boomer, I noticed our generation lacked the testosterone to produce a Humphrey Bogart level of leading man of our age. Or even a Joseph Cotton! Who did we have to replace them? Harrison Ford? No chance. I like Ford, but... not enough testosterone. Jack Nicholson was an adequate replacement, but where is this generation's Jack Nicolson?

Nowhere. Testosterone isn't available.

I don't know what can be done, except to avoid inserting girly men into iconic male roles of the past."

Well, I can see why you chose to remain anonymous. Nice sexist, homophobic post. Frankly, given your enormous obsession with testosterone, you come across as gay too, but repressed. And I speak as an unrepressed gay man myself. Meanwhile, you seem to have confused Matthew Rhys with RuPaul, a PROUD "Girly Man."

D McEwan said...

Both of my parents were huge Perry Mason fans. They had read ALL the novels (And there are over 70 of them) and would watch the show show every week, and if it was based on a book, discuss whether they did the novel well or not. It was their favorite show.

I'm imagining them watching this thing. That the third sentence spoken in the show contained the word "fuck," and the fifth sentence contained "Fucking," words to be found no where in any of the novels (Putting the lie to it being "closer to the books), would have started them bitching. Neither of them would have made it past the Fatty-Arbuckle-performing-cunnilingus-on-camera scene, or Fatty chasing Perry down the street with his dick swinging in the air on camera. (It's supposed to be the early 30s, so it isn't "Fatty Arbuckle," except that it clearly is. After all, 1. Arbuckle was washed up by then. 2. Arbuckle's scandal was over a decade earlier, and 3. ARBUCKLE WAS INNOCENT, as his third jury found.)

Perhaps it's good that my parents are dead, as this would have killed them.

Oooh, fun fact: Madeline Zima played the actress who - ah - served Fatty pumpkin pie. She was little Gracie, the youngest child, on Fran Drescher's sitcom The Nanny, who seems to have made explicit sex scenes her trademark, having also had them in Californication and the Twin Peaks reboot. Nanny Fine should have raised her better.

Would the TV series have titled this story, "The Case of the Bug-Eyed Baby"?

Now remember, if you stumble across the freshly-murdered corpse of your worst enemy, DO NOT pick up the murder weapon and get your fingerprints all over it.

Troy McClure said...


What about Mel Gibson? He's got tons of testosterone, plus he hates gay people and he punched a girlfriend in the face. That's a real man, right?!

I have the feeling your DVD collection consists of Smokey and the Bandit, Smokey and the Bandit 2, Smokey and the Bandit 3, and The Passion of the Christ.

Troy McClure said...

Question for D McEwan

You've previously mentioned knowing lots of stars in Hollywood. I was very saddened by Joel Schumacher's passing this week. Did you know him or meet him? By all accounts he was a nice guy. The Lost Boys, Falling Down and Tigerland are classics. Even some of his lesser works like Flatliners and A Time to Kill are very entertaining.

Tony.T said...

It's certainly more gory and lurid than the earlier versions, but that's to be expected with HBO. I don't mind that it's a back story, I'm looking forward to seeing how - if? - the private eye becomes a lawyer. Not a fan of Matthew Rhys, tho. I actually struggled with The Americans for that reason; fingers crossed there are a few more characters I can care about than TA.

MikeKPa. said...

Like everyone else, I was disappointed in the premiere. How many times do I have to see him fall down drunk? I love this quote attributed to Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner. My first writing job in college was stringing for a weekly and getting a nickel per word, so I can relate to stringing out the story with every word.

When asked why his heroes always defeated villains with the last bullet in their guns, Gardner answered, "At three cents a word, every time I say ‘Bang’ in the story I get three cents. If you think I'm going to finish the gun battle while my hero still has fifteen cents worth of unexploded ammunition in his gun, you're nuts."

Buttermilk Sky said...

Brian Phillips is right. No Fred Steiner theme music, no PERRY MASON.

Michael said...

Oh, oh, ELS reminded me: what's with Netflix's disemboweling of "Spenser"? Robert B. Parker created a series made for film/TV adaptation, and it's been done at least twice (ABC with Robert Urich and Avery Brooks, and A&E with Joe Mantegna). Spenser as an ex-con? Hawk as a "gentle giant" (that really chapped me; Winston Duke has what it takes to play a real Hawk)? What a travesty.

Charles Bryan said...

Initially, I wanted to see it, but the more I heard about it, I could only think "This ain't Perry Mason." I don't mind updating (or in this case, backdating) or refurbishing a character if the core is still there.

Viscount Manzeppi said...

I'm with you.

I hate when they buy the name to an iconic character or franchise, then go out of their way to make it as far removed from the original as possible.

The results are usually absolutely dreadful, but not always. "The Man from U.N.C.L.E" movie reboot wasn't absolutely awful. But the characters were completely removed from our beloved Solo, Kuryakin, and Mr. Waverly, and it lacked most of the wit and panache of the original series. Had they simply called it something original, with differently-named characters, it would have been fine.

Same with M:I, WWW, and, now Perry Mason.

Rick Whelan said...

I hear these producers are working on a new project: Dick Tracy starring Harvey Fierstein!

Rick Whelan said...

... and I kept waiting for that old, iconic theme song!

Al in PDX said...

I'm not sure about other TV markets, but here in Portland, OR, Perry Mason reruns have been running almost steadily (they were off for one year) since the original show stopped in 1966. Anyone think this new version will have that kind of shelf life?

Craig Gustafson said...

Dashiell Hammett created Nick Charles to be the opposite of every popular hard-boiled detective:

1. Happily married.
2. Handsome. (The Continental Op could have been played by Danny DeVito or Dennis Franz in their prime. Sam Spade was described as looking "pleasantly like a blond Satan.")
3. Wanted nothing to do with detecting; he was quite happy taking care of his wife's money. But he got pushed into it.

So there was the Broadway musical "Nick and Nora" by Arthur Laurents ("Gypsy".) What did it focus on? Nick and Nora's marital problems. It flopped.

Fed by the muse said...

Along these lines, one of the worst reworkings I can recall is the Beverly Hillbillies film. Even if you didn't care for the original series there was just no denying the unique talents of Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan in the two lead roles. The Don Adams Get Smart remakes, as bad as many were, suffered greatly from not having Ed Platt there as The Chief of Control. As for the Wild Wild West film, I could envision a pairing of Mel Gibson and, perhaps, Jeff Goldblum (they seem "right" together).
As for Perry Mason, I agree there's only one and that's Raymond Burr (and the same goes for Ironside).

Unknown said...

What everyone needs to realize is that this is an origin season. You also need to remember that the books took place in the 30's. Yes right now it doesn't look like the Perry Mason we all know and love. Trust me though, by the end if the season (8 episides) we will see Mason in the court room.

Mike Doran said...

Here's a fun thing I did the other day, purely for my own amusement:

In my half-vast collection of gray-market DVDs, I happen to have an incomplete set of the 1973-model New Perry Mason, the Monte Markham version (10 out of the 15 episodes).
On an impulse (brought about by HBO-reflux), I picked an episode at random, which caught my eye because the defendant was played by Arthur O'Connell, who'd co-starred with Monte Markham several years before in a sitcom called The Second Hundred Years.
As I watched, I noted the fact that NewPerry's staff was almost entirely assembled from the staff and crew of the old show:
The Exec Producer was Erle Stanley Gardner's longtime agent Cornwell Jackson, whose former wife Gail Patrick had held that spot on the old show (Miss Patrick was listed here as a consultant).
The Producers were Art Seid (who'd been the co-showrunner of the original series for most of the run) and Ernie Frankel (who'd been co-headwriter in the original show's final season).
The headwriter here was Orville Hampton (who'd shared that position with the above-named Ernie Frankel).
Much of the technical crew came directly from the original show's final years.
As to the cast:
Della Street was Sharon Acker, tall and blonde as opposed to the brunette Barbara Hale.
As Hamilton Burger, Harry Guardino was more robust than Bill Talman was in his later years.
Paul Drake was Albert Stratton, whose best-known role came later, as Erica Kane's long-lost father on All My Children (but that's another story …).
Lt. Tragg was Dane Clark with a fresh new toupee.
They also added Perry's receptionist Gertie Lade, part-time; this was Brett Somers, just at the outbreak of Match Game (and that's another story … ).
As to Monte Markham: to his credit he didn't try to mimic Raymond Burr, but played Mason as a less imposing, more approachable attorney. Given time (say, a full season), he might have had a shot at some success, but CBS was impatient that year.
"The Case of the Tortured Titan" was OK, nothing world-shaking; Markham and O'Connell still worked well together (although their screen time together was too limited), the other suspects were a squirmy lot, and the Big Finish (which wasn't in the courtroom this time) played fairly well, in my opinion.
Overall, Mason '73 was more of an update than a remake, and as such was at least in the Gardner ballpark.
And that's the difference with HBO's whatever-the-hell-that-was on Sunday night.

I do intend to watch what's left of the HBO farrago as it plays out.
I also intend to watch the other nine Markham episodes in my inventory.
Which of these two sets am I looking forward to more?
*What do you think?*

D McEwan said...

"Troy McClure said...
Question for D McEwan

You've previously mentioned knowing lots of stars in Hollywood. I was very saddened by Joel Schumacher's passing this week. Did you know him or meet him?"

I never met him, and as for his being "By all accounts a nice guy," well I do have a friend, much younger than Schumacher, who is a director and producer who worked with him, whom Schumacher made a moist-unwelcome pass at once, resulting in a rejection that Schumacher held as a grudge against him for the rest of his life.

I merely felt he was a lousy director. Are there any worse big-budget movies than his two Godawful Batman movies?

Tallulah Morehead said...

PS to Troy McClure. I loved your response to Anonymous the Testosterone junkie. Made me laugh out loud.

D McEwan said...

"Mike Doran said...

They also added Perry's receptionist Gertie Lade, part-time

Actually, "Gertie" appears in the Raymond Burr series also. She was a recurring character in the show's first season, played by Connie Cezon, in most of the episodes that season. a
After that, Gertie was often referred to as being in the next room, answering the phones, but never seen again until she returned 6 years later, in season 7. Barbara Hale had an attack of appendicitis in the middle of shooting of "The Case of the Fifty-Millionth Frenchman" (David McCallum, doing a poor French accent, was Perry's client in this one), and had to have emergency surgery. The script, 3 days into its six-day shoot, was hurriedly rewritten, Connie Cezon hurriedly rehired, and Gertie was filling in for Della in that and three more episodes, in larger roles than she'd had back in season 1, since she was filling in for Della, and had to do whatever Della was going to do, except hopelessly longing for emotionally unavailable Perry.

Della, it was explained, was visiting her sick mother. She missed four episodes, so she visited her sick mother long enough for four murder trials. My, what a long visit!

Tony.T said...

I merely felt he was a lousy director. Are there any worse big-budget movies than his two Godawful Batman movies?

There can't be many directors who have made as many films I dislike as Schumacher. And he made maybe three I like: Lost Boys (which may not stand up to a revisit) and the two Grisham adaptions. That's an atrocious strike rate in my ledger.

Jake Mabe said...

I hated it. Turned it off after 10 minutes.

Didn't give a damn, and don't plan to watch it again.

Jeff Boice said...

It seems whenever they revisit a classic TV show, the producers go one of two directions- they either do a satire/parody of the original concept, or they go all dark & twisted. With either approach, the message is "Can you believe people actually liked this crap?".

Anonymous said...


Is a "moist unwelcome pass" better, worse or the same as a "most unwelcome" pass?
It might have worked out better if it was dry - or maybe not.

(Not the same anonymous)

Saperry40 said...

I have one or two questions about this reboot or what ever it is. In the books is there any evidence that Perry had ever been anything other then Lawyer? Had Paul Drake ever been a Policeman?

McAlvie said...

My take is that the folks behind the … I can't even call it a remake … had never even seen the original show or read the books, and have to intention of doing so. They are strictly trading off the name and a recent trend towards anti-heroes. I don't get why the settled on Perry Mason, given the vast wealth of PI shows from the 70s that they could have mined. They were really asking, no BEGGING, for an unfavorable comparison.

The old shows have made a come back of sorts, and not just for the nostalgia factor. A lot of people watching these old shows never saw them in the original run. But I suspect there's a certain amount of fatigue towards recent programming trends - anti heroes again, but also the over reliance on profanity, nudity, and graphic violence. What might have been novel and interesting, even well done, once is now just laziness. There's so much of it, and then people binge watch and the whole thing just creates viewer fatigue. And that's not even factoring in current events.

All of which makes those old shows look fresh by comparison; but tvland is still going for the lazy approach with suits still targeting micro demographics instead of shooting for the wider audience. What other industry is that dumb?

I read quite a lot, far more than I watch tv, and there does seem to be a trend towards nostalgia reads. An increasingly younger demographic is discovering of the old mystery authors. They could have really done something smart and worthwhile with a Perry Mason reboot. It's just sad.

Michael Hagerty said...

Unknown said:

"What everyone needs to realize is that this is an origin season. You also need to remember that the books took place in the 30's. Yes right now it doesn't look like the Perry Mason we all know and love. Trust me though, by the end if the season (8 episides) we will see Mason in the court room."

That's going to be a pretty big leap. This guy is a mess---dishonorable discharge from the military, anger issues---he's supposed to grow up to be Perry Mason and he's already at least 30?

Let me know how that turns out. I made it through episode one---barely---and said the same thing to my wife the night before Ken's post went up: This might be a prequel to CHINATOWN. There's absolutely no reason to call this Perry Mason.

Damn, what the hell are they going to do to Columbo and Rockford ten years from now?

Troy McClure said...

It's true that Batman Forever and Batman & Robin are terrible, but I don't think it's fair to dismiss his entire career based on those two films. Tigerland is a fantastic film that most people haven't heard of, let alone seen. Falling Down is a classic. No matter how many times I've seen it, I still find Frederic Forrest's performance as Nick the Nazi absolutely chilling. You watch it now and his character is basically a Trump supporter.

Jon B. said...

Many good series take a while to find their footing. Maybe Perry Mason will get there. But after the first episode, I am not optimistic.

Kendall Rivers said...

I HATE reboots so I'm definitely not a fan just for that alone but like you said also Raymond Burr IS Perry Mason as is Barbara Hale IS Della Street and Bill Hopper IS Paul Drake. It's the same mess as the lame and gimmicky Magnum, PI remake. Tom Selleck certainly can't be topped and neither can his other three co stars. I'm glad that you seem to not like it as well though lol.

Kendall Rivers said...

@Fed by the muse Don't forget the unfunny Steve Carrell Get Smart movie of 2008. It was just another dumb gross out comedy that Hollywood makes more and more of today. I'm not Carrell's biggest fan but he's a good actor for the most part but he's not Don Adams and Anne Hathaway is not Barbara Feldon or even the great Alan Arkin isn't Ed Platt.

Kendall Rivers said...

@ Troy McClure ok so what's wrong with Smokey and the Bandit? You got something against fun and well made action comedies? Also you gotta admit most men represented on tv are either pathetic man children or broken psychopaths. If those are your role models ok then lol

D McEwan said...

"Troy McClure said...
It's true that Batman Forever and Batman & Robin are terrible, but I don't think it's fair to dismiss his entire career based on those two films. Tigerland is a fantastic film that most people haven't heard of, let alone seen. Falling Down is a classic. No matter how many times I've seen it, I still find Frederic Forrest's performance as Nick the Nazi absolutely chilling. You watch it now and his character is basically a Trump supporter."

I am not dismissing his entire career because of two movies, I just chose two particularly egregious examples of his crap movie-making. (One Critic said that "Batman Forever for the most part looked like "the inside of Elton John's dishwasher.") I'm dismissing his entire career based on every movie of his I've ever seen being crap. I did not see Tigerland as by then Schumacher's name in the credits to meant to me, "See something else instead." (Also, I seldom like war movies.) The only film of his in my collection is Phantom of the Opera, and it's a bloody awful mess, with an insanely miscast Gerard Butler.

If you ask for my opinion, as you did (I didn't bring him up), you're gonna get my opinion, not merely your own opinion reflected back at you.

Kendall Rivers, I find the Smokey and the Bandit movies unwatchable, and a dreadful waste of the great Jackie Gleason. Plus I've gotten to where I loathe wife-beater Burt Reynolds, and avoid his movies. I knew a make-up man who worked with Sally Field on a picture, who told me of his often having to apply make up on her to hide the black eyes she'd shown up for work with after Burt's frequently beating her up. There's your testosterone-rich man, a guy who beats up women.

Bullshit machismo kills millions. Look at Trump: obsessed with being "tough," which results in his cruelty, his viciousness, his sexism, his racism, his homophobia, and now more American deaths than were caused by World War I. What does all that testosterone get Humanity? War after war after war. Death after death after death.

Rocko said...

If they had just called him Mason Perry, so much less angst.

Troy McClure said...


I love well made fun action comedies. Smokey and the Bandit is redneck entertainment.

I don't need TV characters as role models.

Kendall Rivers said...

@Troy McClure Well, some people like that "redneck entertainment" so no harm in that if it provides comfort. I personally enjoyed it and it's considered a classic even by Alfred Hitchcock so that's just yours and @D McEwan's opinion. Odd you say you don't need tv characters as role models when you're named after a famous Simpsons character.

Kendall Rivers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kendall Rivers said...

@D McEwan First off how is representing men on television as sophisticated, intelligent, tough, badass, vulnerable and with a sense of humor is bullshit machismo and killing millions? You realize that most male characters who were masculine and yes, very manly were also represented as noble heroes who did what was right and had actual personalities and complexities? Let's face it most of them now are represented as either psycho killers like the bogus "prestige" dramas these days or just idiot manchildren who don't take any responsibility for anything. Don't we have enough horrible things like our "president" and other nonsense going on right now?

MikeN said...

A mistrial means you were not able to reach a fair judgement. You would then have to watch it again.

Mike McCann said...

I understand why, in today's world of infinite video choices, resurrecting a familiar brand makes marketing sense... BUT...

As noted, Raymond Burr became so associated with the character, it might take a century before someone else can credibly handle that role.

While Erle Stanley Garner created the character, Burr molded it -- he BECAME Perry almost 300 times (let's not forget the 25 very successful prime time movies for TV). And those 300 cases have been endlessly rerun. So, Burr continues to defend the wrongly accused seven days a week, on multiple channels.

So we know who Perry is, the champion of the underdog, the earnest attorney who was probably an Eagle Scout as a teeanger in the 1930s (it's fair to say that the TV Perry and Raymond Burr were the same age). Although the classic series never included his backstory.

Now, we're shown a "young" Perry Mason -- not the one who has been in practice for the last 63 years. This Mason is a 30-something in the early 1930s. In other words, about 15 years off from "our" Perry.

Why not just call this character Ralph Mason or Charles Mason? And somewhere during this "arc," we met *this* Mason's kid brother, a heavyset, dark haired Eagle Scout, maybe the valedictorian of his L.A. high school's graduating class -- the bright and brilliant guy who can take his brother's dream and, as he grows to adulthood, turn it into a life as the respected and feared attorney, Perry Mason.

That might have given us a great pre-quel. Perry (Raymond) was inspired to be an attorney because his flawed brother couldn't get to the finish line.

Instead of giving us a new dimension to a beloved character, HBO just gave us a bad reboot of a beloved brand name.

Imagine, Nathan's or Pink's selling Chic-Fil-A type sandwiches? Or Ford calling its new SUV a Mustang? Oh, wait, they did...

Mike Doran said...

Has anybody here heard this true story about the original Perry Mason pilot film, from 1956?

Paisano Productions, Erle Stanley Gardner's company, brought in an outside writer to do the script for "The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink", intending that to be the first episode in a year's time.
This writer (whom I won't name) read the Gardner novel, and hated it - to the extent that he simply decided to write everything his own way.
When Mr. Writer brought in his script, Gail Patrick Jackson, who was running the production for Uncle Erle (as his friends called him), wanted to know why he'd changed the DA's name to George Burger.
Mr. Writer answered to the effect that "Hamilton Burger was an obvious joke name, and that 1956 TV was too grown-up for such things" (or something like that).
Mrs. Jackson (Mr. Jackson was Uncle Erle's longtime literary agent) pointed out that the Perry Mason novels were the best-selling books of their genre in the USA, and had been for some years; further, that the series's fans would only accept Hamilton Burger as the DA.
Mr. Writer stood his creative ground, and was shown the artistic door.
The rest, you know.

As to who owns Perry Mason?
Since nearly everybody connected with past iterations of the characters is long since gone from the scene, my semi-educated guess would be that a legal corporation of some sort was set up for the Gardner family to deal with such matters as name use, etc.
If whatever descendants Erle Stanley Gardner may have had had no interest in direct involvement with future uses of Mason, it could be as simple as HBO writing somebody a check; once it clears, they could do Mason any damn way they pleased (which they've obviously done …).
I don't know any of this for sure - it just seems to fit the known facts.
As always, correction is welcomed.

D McEwan said...

Ben Starr was the writer who balked at calling the DA "Ham Burger." He's not closeted about it, and in interviews has told the story of his calling on the carpet for his refusal to use Burger's name and his having Perry drink a martini, when, as Gail Patrick told him, "All the world knows Perry Mason only drinks daiquiris." I suspect that there are people in the world who don't know Perry's drink preferences. Oh, and Mr. Starr claims that he was not fired, but quit, over the daiquiris and "George Burger."

Given that Gail Patrick got pushed out of shape over what Perry drinks, imagine her reading the HBO script. All the world knows that Perry Mason is a lawyer.

The pilot episode, The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink, was the 13th episode broadcast. It was one of the ones that they shot twice, doing it again in the final season, 9 years later, as "The Case of the Sausalito Sunrise."

Mike McCann, I like that Perry's brother idea. He could be Perry Mason's brother James, who had a lovely speaking voice and an English accent.

MSOLDN said...

The HBO miniseries is also currently airing here where I am in the UK and, although I enjoyed the first episode, my immediate reaction was the same. Apart from a marketing gimmick, why name it “Perry Mason” when it is in no credible sense a prequel to the Perry Mason we know and love? Also the use of the Angel’s Flight as the scene of the baby handover and subsequent action seems slightly trite to me, since it has been used as a landmark in previous “noir” films over the years. Anyway, I’ll keep watching. Unfortunately, they’ve already grossed out and lost my wife who loves to watch some of the old Perry Mason TV episodes that air 5 times a day on two CBS-branded cable/satellite channels in the UK these days!

D McEwan said...

"MSOLDN said...
Also the use of the Angel’s Flight as the scene of the baby handover and subsequent action seems slightly trite to me, since it has been used as a landmark in previous 'noir' films over the years.

"I thought the use of Angel's Flight was one of the extremely few nods to the original TV series in the episode. The one and only color episode of the original Perry Mason, "The Case of the Twice-Told Twist" (Which was a naked adaptation of Oliver Twist, only "Bill Sikes" is the victim, not the murderer, with Victor Buono as Fagin. The "twist" in the title refers to Oliver Twist), features a scene in which Perry and Della ride Angel's Flight. So at least there, we had the new, fake Perry literally walking in the footsteps (and riding on the buttprints) of Raymond Burr's Perry.

tvfats said...

I liked it...hey, Angel's Flight and banging your way onto the floor...What is NOT to like...

Vidor said...

I dunno, I liked it. It frankly does not bear much of a resemblance to the "Perry Mason" TV show, no. And even if you imagine Perry is a decade younger than Matthew Rhys' actual age of 46, he's going to be getting an awfully late start on being a lawyer.

But I still liked it. Dark, gritty private eye noir. Maybe they should have called him "Philip Marlowe". But the show was engrossing and Matthew Rhys is excellent at playing a guy who is haunted by his past and world-weary but also fundamentally decent.

MSOLDN said...

Well, what do folks think after episode 2? Personally, I’m enjoying the series, and find that there are riveting performances to keep things flowing along nicely. Plenty of gruesome moments, but hey we’ve experienced a couple of decades of CSI autopsies by now so we’re “battle-hardened”: As for the “re-characterization” of Perry Mason, other famous sleuths like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot have undergone various cinematic and TV transformations over the years, so now I suppose it’s Perry’s turn. As with other big-budget miniseries, I find it’s fun and worthwhile to check out the detailed episode recaps that certain websites post as soon as the episode has aired, to remain fully on top of the fine points in the plot. Here, just Google “HBO Perry Mason episode 2 recap” and you’ll find a list of them. For example, the NY Times does these recaps well.

JS said...

I think actors are wise to stay away from iconic roles played by a famous actor. Perry Mason is no exception. They've been trying to get a Rockford Files reboot off the ground for years, but who wants to be compared to James Garner?