HBO’s Perry Mason – A Few Thoughts

perrymason

I’m not going to pretend to be a fan of the 50s and 60s Perry Mason. In fact, I’m not sure I ever watched a single episode (in reruns, of course). However, something about the HBO revival of the show caught my interest–probably Robert Downey Jr.’s involvement as an executive producer.

I took in the premiere episode a few days after its debut and have kept up with it every week since. The third episode aired last night, and I believe I’m ready to share my opinion of the show.

Simply put: I like it.

I wouldn’t say I love it, but I do look forward to watching it each week. Truthfully, it’s not the story that’s captivated me. Rather, it’s the performances, the costumes, the set pieces, and the cinematography that keeps me coming back.

Set in the early 1930s, this Perry Mason is a private investigator suffering PTSD from WWI, struggling to hold on to his family’s farm, and basically down on his luck in every way possible. He’s rough around the edges, cynical, and not afraid to get his hands dirty. Yet, somewhere behind the weary exterior is a good man, a man who could have shined under different circumstances.

There are some excellent performances in Perry Mason. Matthew Rhys has truly brought Perry Mason to life. The slight expressions, the body language, the voice inflection–it’s all working to create a dynamic character that is, though incredibly flawed, deeply appealing. Tatiana Maslany is always fantastic. I haven’t seen her since Orphan Black, but she’s as potent as ever. Of course, there are other superb actors in the show as well such as Juliet Rylance, John Lithgow, Robert Patrick, Chris Chalk, Gayle Rankin, and Stephen Root.

The “look” of the show is gorgeous. Some of it is CGI, but much of it is actual reproduction of architecture, clothing, and vehicles from the 1930s. The costumes are beautiful, by the way. The suits, the hats, the leather jackets–outstanding. It’s just an interesting show to watch.

Be warned, however, there are some disturbing images from time to time. A podcast warned me to be ready regarding a dead baby during the first few moments. There’s also an intense scene taking place on the battlefield of WWI, gun violence, and regular visits to the police morgue.

Again, I can’t say that Perry Mason has connected with me at a visceral level, but I appreciate it for what it is: a very good show with beautiful costumes, exquisite set pieces, and superb acting.

You Should Be Watching Orphan Black

My wife and I have enjoyed Orphan Black for several years now, and with the revelation that next season will be the fifth and last, I urge you to get caught up now.  Season 4 just finished, so there’s no better time.  As of this writing, you can actually watch the first three seasons for free on Amazon Prime.

If you are unfamiliar with the story line, a lost soul of a woman witnesses a suicide alongside the rail tracks.  She steals the victim’s purse only to discover she looks exactly like the deceased.  Before long, the woman – Sarah – realizes she and the victim were clones of one another … and they aren’t the only ones.  A vast science fiction thrilling epic ensues.

Don’t let that term scare you – “science fiction.”  My wife doesn’t do science fiction, yet she loves Orphan Black.  Yes, the show is firmly rooted in science fiction, but it’s mostly grounded in reality, it’s mostly street level, it’s mostly a thriller with appropriate swatches of humor, and it’s extremely well acted.

In fact, to us, the main actress named Tatiana Maslany is the real reason you need to watch this show.  She plays five different cloned characters on a regular basis, as well as several others on an intermittent basis.  Each of these characters has a unique look, a specific manner of speaking, and individual body language.  Some are good, some are bad, and some are somewhere in the middle.  This actress is so masterful that we forget it’s the same person playing all of these distinct characters.  Honestly, this woman is superb.

Because the show is provocative, exciting, unpredictable, funny and amazingly acted, I can’t recommend it to you enough.  Get caught up this summer so you’re ready for the final season next April!