It is like seeing the love of your life before he acquired all of the qualities that endear you to him. That is how this new Perry Mason is hitting me.
I am drawn to the fact that it is set in the 1930s like Erle Stanley Gardner’s books. I like the storytelling from this time period because it is before censors began curating what type of story could be told. Censors decided what the public could see and stayed away from anything that actually reflected society.
This new series gives Mason a backstory that reflects some of the things I learned of him in the 1960 series. As a matter of fact, he lives on the farm where he was raised as the story opens. But one thing this story does, which was hard for me take, is bust up Mason’s perfect image.
This takes my hero and makes him a former soldier of World War I with struggles that made him a divorced deadbeat dad who has a hard time holding down a job. I know right. But Paul Drake is an African American police officer with more morals than Perry in the midst of a corrupt police department. I am all in. Della Street brings in our LGBTQ storyline, which was refreshing because these storylines are usually men.
The main story with the criminal case is very dark, with parents accused of kidnapping their own baby.
In true Perry Mason style, they defend their client with all of the same tricks, but it gives you a glimpse into why Mason does what he does. There are many twists and turns, but worth it.
The biggest flaw in this series to me is cinematic. African Americans are so dark in this series that in some scenes they lose their features. It is just a large black blob. For instance, there is a moment when Drake shows up on Mason’s doorstep. He sits out in the dark with the moon shining on his face. The only features you can make out are the whites of his eyes. I hope the producers understand that it eclipses the actor’s humanity to not make him look attractive like the other actors. I hope they correct this in season two.
Matthew Rhys plays a very troubled brooding Mason with Chris Chalk playing an equally troubled and dissatisfied Paul Drake. I mean you can see where it is leading. But the train ride to getting there is pretty fun.
Each Sunday night they drop a new episode on HBO.