Watch It: Perry Mason

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Here we are, on snow day #5 of the school year (2nd in a row of this week). This winter has been brutally cold! As a teacher, I of course enjoy the snow days (any teacher who doesn’t enjoy them, even a little bit, is lying to themselves and to you). However, as a high school swim coach, I’m not a great fan of snow days getting in the way of practice. Since I can’t control the weather or the district’s calling of snow days, though, I try not to stress out about it and fully enjoy my snow day. A key component of that enjoyment, for me, is watching Perry Mason reruns.

Perry Mason is an American court drama that aired from 1957-1966 on CBS.  Every time I have the day off of work and I have the opportunity to catch a rerun, I do so because

 

  1. Perry Mason is a smart show. Like a lot of people, sometimes I attempt to take care of things on the computer or play around on my phone while also half-paying attention to what’s on TV. I can do this with Bones (one of my all-time favorite shows), Law & Order, Body of Proof, etc., but I can’t do this with Perry Mason, not without missing a key detail. The show is well-written, with its focus based on the relationships and motives of its characters, rather than on shocking acts of violence, intense action sequences, or emphasis on technology.
  2. The acting is fantastic. Raymond Burr starred as Perry Mason, earning two Emmys during the show’s duration. Barbara Hale, who played Mason’s secretary Della Street, earned an Emmy for her role on the show as well.  William Hopper, the actor who brought Mason’s private detective Paul Drake to life, was also nominated for his work on the show.
  3. In addition to wonderful acting by the series regulars, Perry Mason often featured guest stars past and present viewers would get a kick out of seeing. Such stars included Dick Clark, Robert Redford, Leonard Nimoy, Cloris Leachman, and Bette Davis.
  4. Perry Mason is mostly formulaic. Most episodes begin with a scene or two introducing the soon-to-be defendant and victim. Perry somehow gets introduced and linked to defendant. Someone is killed. Perry and the police both begin their investigations. The evidence keeps pointing to Perry’s client. A hearing or trial occurs. Perry presents his case and ends up revealing another person as the lead suspect. More often that not, that person will end up confessing on the stand. The episodes almost always end with Perry, Della, and Paul, and sometimes the client who was just proven innocent, chatting and laughing in Perry’s office or in a restaurant. A lot of people don’t like it when their shows are formulaic, but as someone who thrives in routine, I enjoy it – especially since every show includes a new mystery to fit into that formula.
  5. It’s a black-and-white blast from the past. I love watching reruns with my dad, who remembers watching them with his late mom when the show was originally on air. The men all wear suits, trench coats, and hats, and the women all wear pencil skirts and have their hair and lipstick perfectly in place. It’s a fun trip back in time to an age that many people view as classy and more wholesome, but via storylines that remind you no time was truly an age of innocence.

Perry Mason episodes are currently shown on MeTV and the Hallmark Movie Channel.  You can also find full episodes available for streaming here.

 

(image source)

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