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.

Netflix Binge – Columbo

I have written before on my love of classic TV, including a Detective series from the early 1970’s, Columbo.

Once again, I am back, re-watching the series, and I am again struck by the production quality, and the stories.

Yeah, like many of the genre, the stories are predictable, but the theatrical presentation is outstanding, and the character Columbo, is the perfect vehicle for Peter Falk to shine. Quirky at his finest, and completely at home in his role as the unkempt homicide detective, Peter Falk remains charming in his portrayal, and the type of character is reprised often (including his outstanding performance in “The In-Laws“, a movie I highly recommend.

Furthermore, unlike many detective stories, the viewer knows up front who the villain is, and we get to watch the process of elimination that Columbo follows, ultimately finding out that it was an early clue (that we all caught), that causes the culprit to dissemble and be caught in the act.

One more point, the shows work out to about 70 minutes, so they were broadcast in a 90 minute time slot, giving ample time for story and character development. This really helps the enjoyment of the story, as there isn’t a feeling of being rushed in the telling of the story.

There is the trademark green, “stinky” cigar that Columbo is always puffing on, as well as the “Oh, one more thing…” the beginning of a question that cuts to the bone, and begins to unravel the composure of the guilty party…

Ah, how I love Netflix, and binge watching. My classic TV addiction is fed once again.

Oh, and pick up a copy of The In-laws, it is a very very funny movie…