Perry Mason was a wonderful series that ran from 1952 to 1966 starring Raymond Burr. Together with his secretary, Della Street, and his private investigator, Paul Drake, he did what no other attorney wanted to do–took the cases of the innocent charged with serious crimes even when the evidence against them seemed insurmountable. He didn’t do it for money or fame. He did it because it was the right thing to do.
Perry Mason is a new 2020 HBO series that’s disgusting. There I’ve said it. They moved the timeline to 1932, made it about a vile and cruel private investigator who actually is solely responsible for sending the mother of a murdered child to jail for a crime she didn’t commit. He then spends the rest of the series trying to get her out.
0 out of 10 stars. In the 1930s (and the 1950s, for that matter), Americans didn’t speak this way. They weren’t disgusting. They didn’t scream at each other and use the F word every other sentence. They did none of these things. To take a revered character from American TV history and make him into this vile piece of crap should be a crime.
Mathew Rhys plays the title character, Perry Mason. He’s a WWI vet with a terrible history, a mean streak a mile wide, a failing farm, a Mexican lover who’s trying to steal his house and property away from him (she succeeds by the end), a camera he uses to take truly vile photographs of people including the victim, a kidnapped baby boy who is accidentally murdered and then his eyes are sewn open with thick black thread. For some reason he believes he is a good man, even though he treats his ex-wife and son like garbage and can’t seem to get a sentence out with at least two F words in it.
Perry is the private investigator for E.B. Jonathan, played by John Lithgow. E.B. isn’t a great character either. He embezzled from several of his clients and partners and is about to be exposed. He takes big cases for the publicity and the money, not out of a duty to do the right thing. And when the DA narrows in on exposing his crimes, he kills himself rather than be publicly exposed for his crimes.
Della Street is E.B.’s secretary, but in this series she’s also his paralegal and comes from a wealthy family who disapproves of her lifestyle (she’s a lesbian). She’s good friends with Hamilton Burger (an Assistant DA) who is also gay. Their engagement is fake, to detract any suspicion that either of them is homosexual. Hamilton is likeable. Della is sometimes likeable, but very aggressive and very spoiled. There’s one point in the film where she badgers E.B. to a near heart attack.
The villains in this series are the police and the District Attorney, as well as a church with several male members who are in politics. They’ve been using the church to hide crimes they’ve committed and they’re $100,000 in debt. When they go to their richest member, Herman Baggerly, for help, he refuses. So they kidnap his grandson and have a prostitute hooked on heroin breastfeed him, not realizing the heroin gets to the baby through the breast milk and kills him. They sew his eyes open, pretending he’s still alive, to get the ransom then frame the mother for the kid’s murder with Perry’s help.
Paul Drake is a good cop who is talked into covering up the crime for money. By the end of the series he’s given the money back, quit, and joined Perry’s law firm as a private investigator.
But the rest of the series is pretty horrible.
0 out of 10 stars. HBO has a history of making some truly disgusting series. Avoid this one unless you’re prepared to be truly disgusted.