Notes on Perry Mason


Being an “old fart” I enjoy watching old television programs. Rockford Files was a favorite growing up, and I watched it not long ago on Netflix. Lately, I have been programming my Tivo to capture the old Perry Mason episodes from MeTV. It is a classic, and enjoyable, but there are some attributes from its “era”.

First, unlike Columbo, you don’t know whodunnit up front. Of course, human nature causes you to speculate, but one thing is certain, the person charged is NEVER guilty, regardless of how bad it looks for them.

Second, the show ran for 9 seasons, and you can see some very distinct changes. In the early episodes, you would often see Raymond Burr lighting up a cigarette, and then in later episodes, he abstained from the weed. Of course, throughout the run, there was plenty of smoking from the cast and guests. Also, it seemed very common that there was heavy drinking, lots and lots of bottles of alcohol being tippled into tumblers.

Third, the episodes (with commercials) were an hour, and it is a pretty predictable cadence. An intro, a murder (always a murder), at about the 30 minute mark, you are in court, things look bleak for the defendant, with the prosecuting attorney, Hamilton Burger, zeroing in, and then the “twist”. Paul Drake or Della Street brings in a critical piece of information, and BANG Perry gets the guilty party to confess or act out.

Fourth, even as adversarial as Mason and the prosecutor, Burger are, they seem to have a jovial, relationship outside the courtroom. I suspect that in real life, there isn’t so much clubishness between prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Even with this formulaic structure, this snapshot of life in the late 50’s and early-mid 60’s, is amusing, and I enjoy watching.

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By geoffand


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