I still sometimes channel surf. Is that no longer a thing? That used to be how we found shows to watch. We’d settle on something after saying “100 channels and nothing to watch!” Now we say “1000 channels and nothing to watch” and go to Netflix.

But this night I stumbled upon an old episode of PERRY MASON on MeTV. By old I mean black-and-white from the late ‘50s/early ’60s. I always enjoyed Perry Mason when I came across it but never loved it like my parents and grandparents. If there was a Western on another channel I was gone. But it wasn’t written for me back then. 

PERRY MASON was on the air well into the late ‘60s. In much the same way that NCIS and LAW & ORDER are sort of comfort food TV, PERRY MASON was a very popular show, regularly pulling in 30,000,000 viewers a week.

It was clearly formulaic. There would be a murder, Perry would defend the leading suspect, there were always four or five others who could have done it, and ultimately Perry corners the real killer into admitting the crime. How District Attorney Hamilton Berger kept his job I’ll never know because he always lost.

Raymond Burr played Perry and had all the things you need to be a TV star – very likable, good looks, and a giant head. The writing was pretty decent. Perry generally figured out who the killer was before you despite you being privy to the same clues.

The acting was generally terrible. Very melodramatic and overblown. Burr was the only actor who didn’t recreate the death scene from CAMILLE any time anybody was asked to state their name on the witness stand. But it was cheesy nostalgic fun.

And looking back, there are great cameos by actors who went on to become big stars and young directors like Arthur Hiller would cut their teeth megging episodes.

But the thing that struck me about the show, and why I ultimately think it became such a big hit for so many years was this – We as a country celebrated intelligence back then. Perry Mason won because he was SMART. He was smarter than anyone else. His super power was his brain. America, regardless of the State color, admired his ability to see through smokescreens and find the truth. The “comfort” comes from justice always winning out. We had faith in our institutions and those sworn to protect them.

So even though there are a thousand channels and another few thousand options on streaming sites, it was fun to watch a 60 year-old program and long for the days when justice and education were actually valued. And Angie Dickinson looked amazing in 1959.
Source: kenlevine.blogspot.com

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