The original Perry Mason ran when our weekly Lists were just a glint in the eye of Great Grandpa Must – it showed on CBS in the US between 1957 and 1966. Now, it is another classic taken down from the loft and polished up for a new audience. This polishing though has had rather mixed results.
The show’s creators have really created a back-story for the Perry Mason that our grandparents knew: instead of a courtroom lawyer we’re seeing a previous existence as a private investigator. In The New York Times James Poniewozik says Matthew Rhys plays Mason as “hard, haunted and soulful, the picture of a man doing a job he doesn’t love, feeling its effects more than he wants to.” He goes on, “this is a straight-up period piece, impeccably detailed, with an unimpeachable cast, but with no real rethinking of the kind of story it’s telling. Why this character? Why this setting? Why this genre?”
Robert Lloyd in the Los Angeles Times contrasts this reboot with the original: “Where the police and prosecutors in the old Perry Mason are well-meaning and honorable, if nearly always wrong, here they form a familiar coterie of self-serving bad actors.” He thinks the series feels like a long pilot for “what could make a fine series yet to come,” and that it is “easily enjoyable, nicely played and smartly designed, with some well-executed big set pieces.” The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson calls it “promising enough to suggest that it’s worth sticking with, just about.” And whilst she praises a cast that includes John Lithgow and Juliet Rylance, the show “does not yet feel particularly comfortable in its own skin. There is clearly plenty more to come.”
It’s noir-ish, moody and violent – all reviewers have noted some pretty gruesome scenes so it’s probably not one to watch with any small people in your life – but we think it will be a slow burn success, so one to stick with in the hope of a second series.
First shown June 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.