Every once in a while I watch a television show that I feel I absolutely have got to tell you about. The classic Perry Mason TV show is one of those shows.
My husband and I started watching this show a couple of months ago on Amazon Prime. (I’ll talk about its cancellation down at the bottom of this blog entry.) We had both seen several of the shows years ago – since they seem to have been in syndication for years and years and years! When I was in high school and college, I remember catching a show every once in a while.
Getting back to this great television legal crime show…
For those of you who never channel-hopped and found one of these gems, Perry Mason is a defense attorney who is so good at his job that when he introduces himself, people almost fawn over him. Because of his terrific notoriety, doors are opened to him. He’s able to talk to almost every suspect, and what’s even better than that, they talk back to him!
For my husband and me, the fact that this show only deals with that week’s particular crime, and doesn’t rely on being a soap opera of sorts, is a bonus. The crime and legal case are the highlights of the show. I have to admit that now that we are watching the series chronologically, I have noticed what a tight bond exists between Perry and his absolutely phenomenal secretary (more like a paralegal to me), Della Street. Perry is played by Raymond Burr, and I can’t imagine anyone else who could portray him better! As a fan of old black and white movies, I see what a 180° change this role is from the bad-guy roles Burr usually played in those movies. (I absolutely love seeing Raymond Burr smile in these shows – very unlike his previous enforcer/bully roles.)
As for Della Street, Barbara Hale is perfect! I know I mentioned no soap-opera storyline, but Della and Perry always seem like they are so perfectly connected that it leaves me wondering about their off-duty relationship. (My husband has heard me talk about this many times, but he knows that it isn’t important to the show, so he just sits through my speculations…) Perry doesn’t seem to have to instruct Della on what to do because she already knows (through telepathy?) what he wants to be done.
William Hopper (aka Paul Drake) is the private detective who Perry trusts to get the background scoops. Drake seems to stop at nothing to get the information Perry needs in order to get his clients acquitted. Drake has connections throughout the country and he puts a lot of mileage on his car driving all over California in order to track down leads and histories.
Most of Perry’s cases are against District Attorney Hamilton Burger. William Talman manages to portray Burger as a very capable and smart lawyer who, unfortunately, goes up against Perry on a rather regular basis. My husband and I have seen Burger actually change his mind about the accused person and almost join Perry in order to put the real culprit in prison. William Talman portrayed Burger as a very honest man.
Ray Collins starred as the homicide detective who almost seemed to follow Perry and Paul from one crime scene to the next. As the lead detective, Lt. Tragg doggedly pursued Perry’s clients. As you will see (if you watch the shows), Perry isn’t above putting incriminating evidence in his pocket before trying to leave the scene of a crime. However, even before the days of GPS or social media, Lt. Tragg seems to magically appear just as Perry is exiting the scene. (These accidental encounters usually bring a smile to my face.)
Perry Mason is the creation of Erle Stanley Gardner. He was a prolific author and self-taught lawyer. Gardner’s Perry Mason novels were published during the 1930s to 1970s. Gardner also managed to write other series but Perry Mason was his most popular. (Take a look at the Erle Stanley Garner page on my site to see his list of books.)
I strongly recommend the 1950s/1960s Perry Mason TV series starring Raymond Burr. Unfortunately, CBS is the owner of the rights, and they have pulled the series from Amazon Prime – (I’m guessing) in an attempt to get subscribers for their streaming channel. This is something my husband and I do not plan to do! The CBS streaming includes advertisement interruptions in their shows unless you are willing to pay a premium for not having ads. Also, I am not crazy about the idea of every channel charging for their streaming – why can’t they leave shows on the actual channels? So we ended up buying the entire boxed set series. My husband (aka as one of my “tech guys” – along with my son) had to reconnect our DVD player, but after a couple of weeks without Perry, Della, Paul, Burger, and Lt. Tragg – it sure was good to reconnect! 😀
Also, I understand that there will be a new HBO Perry Mason series. I wonder if the shows will just focus on the legal aspects or if it will be soap-opera-ized…
P.S. As someone who has watched a whole lot of Star Trek TV series over the years, I am also sorry CBS has added them to their only-on-our-streaming- service channel. 🙁