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HBO's Perry Mason – the case of the missing 2nd season

HBO's Perry Mason – the case of the missing 2nd season

Classic TV fans will already know there are 3 Perry Masons. The original black and white small screen show. Set in 1959-65. Some episodes actually written by original author Erle Stanley Gardner. Set in a Los Angeles that you could imagine was real. The original, the benchmark.

Perry version 2: Made for TV movies, bringing back a zeppelin sized Raymond Burr. A grandmotherly Barbara Hale, who is now completely devoid of the coy, kittenish allure which underpinned every episode of the original series. Writing and art direction which should have resulted in long prison terms for the “show runners”.

And the 3rd Perry – the little-known HBO “Perry Mason” reboot, released in 2020.

HBO Perry is a witty reboot of the original 1959 series. It is (allegedly) returning to HBO for a 2nd season. Three years late, in March 2023. Here are HBO Perry's first season character reimaginings.

1. Perry is an alcoholic, unemployed World War 1 war survivor with no law degree
2. Della Street is lesbian, with a submissive live-in girlfriend
3. Paul Drake is black policeman struggling against institutional racism
4. Hamilton Burger is a closeted gay District Attorney

This is Perry as (some people) hoped it could be. Semi-explicit sex. Openly admitting racism and sexual orientation issues. Not taking itself too seriously. Winking ironically at its own over the top “woke” plotline.

A lot to love here. And the casting was ambitious too. Matthew Rhys, who somewhat fails as Perry. Gretchen Mol, Robert Patrick, John Lithgow, Stephen Root, Sean Astin. Most of these gems are frittered away, either in early series deaths or poorly written supporting roles.

The original 1959 Perry presented secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) as sexually alluring but aloof 30-something. She had exquisite makeup, impossibly perfect hair, and form fitting knit wardrobes that intrigued without being unrealistically revealing. 1959 Della might have been the prefect launching point for HBO's “lesbian Della”. This opportunity was mostly wasted too. HBO Della isn't simmering like the original - she's just plain and suppressed. And who wants THAT in a TV lesbian? HBO Della's girlfriend Hazel is intriguing, a “hand model” who is seductive and suggestive enough for both of them. She is wasted too.

Critics applauded the casting of Matthew Rhys as HBO's Perry. Evidently, he won awards for some previous work. He won't win any here. His acting and direction never attempt to leverage or overcome the pointless backstory. Rhys is costumed and impersonates a refugee from Raiders of the Lost Ark. His ex-wife Gretchen Mol is a dead end. His Mexican lover/Airline owner (!!) is only onscreen for infrequent but kinky rough sex. Her appearances never remind us that latinos have struggled in America since forever, and don't own airlines. Although they might give an occasional beatdown to a cheating, drunk lover.

As a black private detective, HBO's Paul Drake (Chris Chalk) might have gone somewhere too. He's self-aware, but not self-pitying. A victim of 1930's equal opportunity/unequal outcomes hiring policies. HBO's black Paul Drake has an apartment and lifestyle that would have been enviable for even his white boss on the police force. Black Paul Drake is athletic and complex enough to potentially surpass the 1959 “playboy bachelor” Paul Drake. Let's hope season 2 figures out how to use him.

I'm looking forward to HBO season 2 coming in March. But nobody wants to wait 3 years between seasons for ANY pandemic delayed show. It wouldn't surprise anyone if the casting changed for some HBO Perry characters in Season 2, as original actors accepted steady work elsewhere.

Although it might seem that I'm damning HBO Perry with faint praise, but that's not the case. Despite its flaws, this show has more to offer than Westworld Season 4, HBO's “Barry”, and of course the stilted “House of the Dragon”.

And HBO Perry doesn't need CGI dragons, a zombie apocalypse, or diabolical cyborg robots to make its point.

Hey, HBO . . . if Perry Season 2 flops, I'm available to submit storyboards for Season 3. Some of my ideas include:

1. Highlight the allure and tragedy of depression era prostitution (think boardwalk empire)
2. Narcotics use too. Heroin is more of a menace than whiskey.
3. More realistic and erotic lesbian love scenes
4. Paul Drake kicking whitey's ass, and getting away with it too
5. Perry himself needs a girlfriend who doesn't abuse him during sex because he's always drunk. She tops him because she's smart and empowered in her own right.

Good ideas, no? I'm just saying.
Thorstormbringer · 61-69, M
Wonderful writeup!

SusanInFlorida · 26-30, F
@Thorstormbringer thank you kind sir
Thorstormbringer · 61-69, M
You are very welcome !


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